Updated: September 10, 2021 9:40:33 am
Seated inside a kiosk just outside Gate No:1 of a deserted Ford Motors’ car and engine manufacturing plant at Sanand, Manjula Darbar (50) cut a lonely picture. It is a little after 5 pm when the shift at the plant usually ended and workers streamed out. But on Thursday evening, hours after Ford Motors announced it was to wind down manufacturing of vehicles for export at Sanand, all was quiet.
“There was a time, when this plant was brimming with activity. I remember this because I used to make Rs 5,000-6,000 a day, selling tea, hot snacks and Puri-Sabzi. I used to buy 10 litres of milk for tea. The number of workers began dwindling since the lockdown in March 2020 and since last three days, not a single person from the plant has come to my kiosk. I am struggling to make Rs 500 a day,” said Manjula as she takes down a string of potato wafer packets, preparing to shut shop for the day.
Ford Motors will be the second automobile plant to cease car manufacturing in Gujarat during the last five years, after automobile giant General Motors closed down its unit near Vadodara in 2017. Ford Motors which had invested around Rs 6,200 crore had initially started the unit by manufacturing 2.4 lakh cars and 2.7 lakh engines.
On Thursday evening, The Indian Express visited the plant site at Sanand which is spread over 460 acres in North Kotpura village, adjoining the Tata Motors plant and began manufacturing cars and engines since 2015. The manufacturing plant that once had 3,000 employees and manufactured Ford Aspire and Ford Figo brand of cars, wore a deserted look. The only visible sign of activity were security guards who were engaged in a change of shift. “The employees have not been coming since last three days. Now there is only a single shift from 9 am to 5 pm,” a security guard said requesting anonymity.
Vijay Bapodra, president of Karnavati Kamdar Ekta Sangh, a union of 850 workers within the Ford Motors plant, said the last three days were non-production days at the plant and so workers were not turning up for work. “There are 2,000 permanent workers at the Sanand plant and 850 of them are members of our union. However, 400-450 workers report to work on most days as the production has taken a hit since Covid. The company informed about its decision to cease car manufacturing only this morning, when a meeting with the Union was called. This was before the company went public with its announcement,” Bapodra said.
“The company did not say anything specific about the future of the employees at the plant. They just said the plant will be shut and they said that the management will sit with the union to decide the fate of the employees. They company said it will do the best it can,” he added. The Union leader said that Ford Motors has not laid off any worker during the pandemic nor has it cut salaries.
The exit of Ford Motors from Sanand, around 25 kms from Ahmedabad, is a huge set back for Gujarat government which has been promoting it as an automobile hub. The Ford Motors plant had five acres of vehicle and engine assembly plants, along with a test track. Officials from the industries and mines department of Gujarat government did not respond to calls or messages.
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