COVID: RAI urges govt to provide relief to retail sector

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New Delhi, May 27 (PTI) The Retailers Association of India (RAI) on Thursday urged the Centre to pay the provident fund contribution of both employers and employees in retail sector till September 2021 for all those earning less than Rs 15,000 per month as part of a slew of demands to help the industry cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

Stating that retail businesses are under tremendous financial strain due to the extended closures, RAI said, 'Easing the burden will require the support of various bodies driven by the governments.' Putting out a list of demands, RAI sought extension by a year for the renewals of existing permits and licences required for running of malls, shopping centres, retail stores, restaurants and pubs.

While seeking relaxation in compliance requirements of retailers to pay MSME suppliers in 45 days till March 2022, RAI asked the 'Government of India to pay PF contribution of both employer and employee (12 per cent each) till September 2021 for all employees earning less than Rs 15,000 pm (per month).' It also sought 100 per cent relief to landlords and malls in payment of property tax for the year 2021-22, besides a moratorium on repayment of principal and interest on loans for six months.

RAI also requested the government to mandate electric distribution companies to waive minimum demand charge for the period April 2021 to June 2021, and banks to give ad-hoc working capital loans of 30 per cent more than current limits 'so that critical payments like salaries and wages can be made'.

RAI CEO Kumar Rajagopalan said already a lot of work is happening within the industry, with mall owners and landlords giving rebate to their retail tenants and the suppliers giving additional credit period or bringing down the cost of their merchandise.

'We do believe that the state government, the central government, the Reserve Bank of India and the banks also have to chip in to soften the blow of the pandemic to businesses and the economy.

'Unless the retail businesses are able to get back on their feet and get the consumption going again, it will adversely affect the economy since retail contributes 10 per cent to the nation's GDP,' he said.

Rajagopalan asserted that 'while it is imperative to get the last mile workers in retail vaccinated on priority, it is equally important to ensure that the entire cost of the shutdown is not borne by the business alone.' PTI RKL ABM ABM

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