It is always interesting to talk to Narayan Rane, former Maharashtra chief minister and the incumbent Union Minister of micro, small & medium enterprises (MSME). He has been at loggerheads with the Shiv Sena ever since he quit the party in 2005, over differences with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Rane rarely minces words while criticising the Sena.
Addressing a rally at Mahad in Raigad district on August 23—a stop on his Jan Ashirwad Yatra—Rane said that he would have slapped Uddhav for not remembering the year of India’s Independence. Shiv Sainiks across Maharashtra protested his remarks and four cases were filed against him. He was arrested in the case registered at Mahad, but was released on bail in a couple of hours. He took a short break from the Yatra, and resumed it again on August 27. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Rane spoke about his arrest, his plans for the MSME ministry and the performance of the Central and the Maharashtra governments. Edited excerpts:
Q/What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the MSME sector?
A/I took charge of the ministry on July 7. The very next day I held a meeting of the officials to understand the ministry and to assess the impact of the pandemic. The officials briefed me about the budgetary provisions for the department. I told them that our effort should be focused on the growth of MSMEs so that there is employment generation and an increase in GDP.
The pandemic has hugely affected the MSME sector. We need to provide relief for the affected industries and I have asked the officials to get the necessary data and details. Once I get those, I will meet Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and urge her to provide relief to the affected units so that they are able to stand on their own feet again.
Q/Do you have a relief package for the MSME sector in mind?
A/I have two things on my mind: insurance and credit from banks. The finance ministry has a big role to play. So, I will request the finance minister to call a meeting of insurance and bank officials and get their views on how much loan can be given, and whether it can be given at a lower rate of interest.
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