Even as the Union and the state governments granted permission to partially open industrial units, hardly six companies in the Sanand Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) were operational on Monday, owing to massive shortage of workforce.
Industrialists claim that out of 8,000 strong workforce employed in over 300 industrial units of Sanand GIDC, hardly 3,500 were present in the Sanand village and factory areas. With the extended lockdown expected to end by May 3, the troubles for the industries have just begun as many labourers who are still stranded, would like to return to their native places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
“Since the lockdown was announced in March, out of 8,000 workers, only 3,500 are in the village and GIDC area. Those who are staying here are not staying by choice, and they would like to return to their native places after May 3. They miss their families. So it is difficult for industries to get the workers in gear when hardly two weeks are left for lockdown to end. We have usually seen the trend that once a worker goes to his native place once in a year, he returns after 2-3 months. Therefore, the coming times will be challenging for the industrial units to remain operational,” said Ajit Shah, head, Sanand Industries Association.
At the Sanand GIDC area in Ahmedabad outskirts on Monday where at least 70 industrial units were given permission to operate, only six mainly from the engineering sector, were operational.
Another factor which can hamper the normalcy in Sanand GIDC is the lack of skilled workers in the area. While Sanand GIDC hosts majority of the migrant workers that are unskilled workers, the skilled workers stay in Ahmedabad area.
While Ahmedabad has seen hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases, Sanand taluka has none and according to industrialists of the area, they have been warned by the district administration that if any of the workers is found to be COVID-19 positive, then police action can be initiated against the owner of the unit for negligence.
“We have a total of 70 workers in our unit and out of them, 12 have reported to work today. We have stopped getting any new orders and our priority is to complete the past orders of March. However, since today morning, we have dedicated our staff towards sanitising our entire unit and oiling the machines. Since our skilled workers live in Ahmedabad, which has many hotspots, we have not called them in,” said Niraj Shah, owner of Kaushik Engineering.
Ajit Shah also added that the warning given by the district administration to charge the owners of the industrial units for any positive case inside GIDC has only hampered the prospects of normalcy.
“The lockdown will be approaching a month’s time and the owners of the industrial units cannot be held accountable for the places the idle workers have visited in these days. Moreover, the units that are functioning today are abiding by all the guidelines of the administration by ensuring sanitisation of unit premises, compulsory temperature screening of workers and maintaining social distancing,” said Shah.
The Indian Express also spoke to a few workers who remained in a state of dilemma whether to stay back or head towards their native places. All the workers in GIDC area get salary on monthly basis where the unskilled workers are paid somewhere around Rs 15,000, while skilled ones are paid somewhere between Rs 18,000-25,000 a month. On March 31, almost all the workers were paid their salary for March, however, with troubling times, it will be extremely difficult for the industry units to pay the workers for April where 20 days have passed without any work.
“I and my colleagues had decided to stay back in March itself since there was no medium of transport functioning and our industry unit had arranged for a month’s ration. From today, we have started working and since there is no major festival in the coming months, we would like to stay here and earn,” said Niraj Paswan, an unskilled worker, employed as a fitter in Kaushik Engineering, who is a native of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
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