The newly announced 46-member Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Board, tasked to play an important role in policy review, has 26 official members and 20 representing a range of industry voices. Politics seems to dominate the choice of the latter — the list includes several BJP office-bearers, ex-party MLAs and members of RSS affiliate Laghu Udyog Bharati.
According to Section 3 of the MSME Development Act Act — under which the Board is constituted by the Centre — these 20 members are meant to “represent the associations of micro, small and medium enterprises, including not less than three persons representing associations of women’s enterprises and not less than three persons representing associations of micro enterprises, to be appointed by the Central Government.”
A scrutiny of the list shows that it includes one BJP MLA; three ex-MLAs/candidates and one ex-MLA of AJSU (BJP ally in Jharkhand); six members of Laghu Udyog Bharati (LUB); six BJP functionaries; two former members of FICCI and one member from Gujarat.
Those with political links include: Kundan Kumar, BJP MLA from Bihar; Penmetsa Vishnu Kumar Raju, ex-BJP MLA from Andhra Pradesh; Yashvir Dagar, BJP candidate from Haryana in 2014; Pravat Keshari Mishra, Odisha, BJP candidate from Cuttack in 2009 and director in two companies; Teena Sharma, BJP Spokesperson, Delhi; Rashmi Mishra, BJP Purvanchal Morcha; Robin Blackei, BJP Manipur Pradesh Treasurer; Rakesh Gupta, State Executive, BJP Punjab; Pradip Peshkar, state president, BJP Udyog Aghadi, Maharashtra; Hemalben Mehta, director of Vadodara-based P-Met High Tech, who has been vice president of BJP Yuva Morcha and is the wife of BJP leader Amit Thaker, state secretary of BJP in Gujarat; Baldevbhai Govindbhai Prajapati, president, Laghu Udyog Bharati; Naresh Chand Pareek, national coordinator LUB and ex-national executive member BJYM; Sampat Toshniwal, Secretary, LUB.
Sector key to growth in distress
As the second surge hits the economy, the board will advise the government on MSME distress. The Government has announced several measures including a scheme for bank loans worth Rs 3 lakh crore to support MSMEs. This sector is key to revival in employment too.
The list of 20 also includes Harjinder Kaur, former president of the women’s wing of FICCI and MD & CEO Comivision India; and J R Bangera, former president of the Karnataka FICCI wing and MD of Premier Starch Products.
An email sent to the Ministry of MSME did not elicit any response. Officials said that although some individuals may be associated with the BJP, they have business links.
When contacted, Teena Sharma, Board member, said: “I had been director for Assocham India where I was looking at women’s foundations and have been working in digital space, in StandUp India-StartUp India, and Mudra. That’s why I got nominated to this Board. I am also a women and a child rights activist…I have experience on women’s financial inclusion and other things including policy making.”
Said Rashmi Mishra of BJP’s Purvanchal Morcha: “I have worked for the upliftment of silk artisans in Bhagalpur. I look forward to working for artisans and women entrepreneurs.”
When contacted, Kundan Kumar, BJP MLA from Begusarai, said he is a mechanical engineer and has been working for small enterprises.
Said Haryana’s Dagar: “I am into the business of packaging material and I am a member of the small-scale industries association. In the first meeting, I plan to take up GST-related issues that small businesses face.”
When contacted, Peskhar said: “Besides being state president of the BJP’s industries wing, I am a member of the Nashik industries manufacturers’ association and was state general secretary of the Laghu Udyog Bharti.”
Punjab’s Rakesh Gupta said that he runs an MSME manufacturing unit and is associated with several associations. “I am a national executive member of All India Steel Re-rollers Association and also an executive member of Steel Chamber of Commerce and Industries.”
When contacted, Hemalben Mehta said she has been a Senate member of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (MSU) for almost 10 years and is in the managing committee of Federation of Gujarat Industries (FGI), an industries association of Gujarat.
Prajapati, Board member and President Laghu Udyog Bharti, said that LUB members are associated with small-scale industries. “FICCI and CII are industry bodies for large companies and we are a big association of MSME sector companies across the country.”
E-mails sent to Raju and Mishra did not elicit any response.
As per the MSME Development Act, the Board has 26 official members and is chaired by Union Minister (Nitin Gadkari). The others are the minister of state; six ministers from state governments; three MPs; a UT administrator; Secretary, MSME; Secretaries of Commerce and Industry, Finance, Food processing, Labour and planning; Chairman of a national bank; Chairman of a small industries bank; Chairman of IBA; one RBI official; three persons of eminence, two representatives of Central Trade Union Organisations and one official from MSME not below rank of Joint Secretary.
While the minister of state Pratap Chandra Sarangi is vice-chairman, the board also has ministers in-charge of MSME from Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Assam. Three MPs appointed are Shankar Lalwani (BJP); Beesetti Venkata Satyavathi (YSRCP) and Banda Prakash (TRS).
In the eminent persons category, too, political affiliation is a common factor. The three persons of eminence appointed are: Pravin Kumar Agarwal (industrialist), BJP district president of Siliguri; Smita Yashwant Ghaisas (economist), vice president, Laghu Udyog Bharati; and Utpal Parrikar, MD of Ayuron Implants and son of late BJP leader Manohar Parrikar.
This year’s Union Budget pegged the allocation to MSME Ministry at Rs 15,699.65 crore. This includes Rs 10,000 crore towards the Centre’s Guarantee Emergency Credit Line (GECL) facility to eligible MSME borrowers.
Unlike the current board which has no member from CII, FICCI, Assocham and PHD CCI, the previous board had members from each of the four leading industry associations. It also had representation from the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and the Dalit India Chamber of Commerce and Industry. —(with Avinash Nair and ENS, Chandigarh).