As Gujarat government prepares to restart economic activities on April 20, industrial associations are not sure where to sell output as markets are all closed.
Industries that The Indian Express spoke to not only said that initial the industrial production will only lead to stockpiling, but they also felt that sourcing workers from cities like Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar and Surat that have hotspots and containment zones will be a tricky affair.
Talking about the preparations made by the state government to restart industrial activity in the state, Ashwini Kumar, secretary to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, said, “The chief minister has directly interacted with the district collectors of Surat, Vadodara, Kutch, Bharuch, Valsad, Rajkot and Ahmedabad that house big industrial sectors. Preparations to begin economic activity has been done and in Kutch district, 40-45 firms have already been granted permission to begin work from April 20 onwards. Similar meetings have been completed in Vadodara and Surat too.”
“We all want to restart, but the biggest issue is that owners of 150 of the 200-odd industrial units of Sanand live in Ahmedabad city – which is now a hotspot – and travel to Sanand for work. According to the government, no one from containment zones will be allowed out. So we are yet to get details of the containment and hotspots and how the owners are going to reach their factories,” said Ajit Shah of Sanand Industrial Association.
“Most of the workers come from Ahmedabad city,” said Shah about the manufacturing sector in Sanand which deals with automobiles, FMCG, plastics, packaging, engineering and pharmaceuticals.
Automobile companies like Tata Motors and Ford Motors usually operate special buses to ferry passengers from Ahmedabad city to Sanand. With hotspots and containment zones in place, there is a question mark on the number of workers who can report to work.
“Even the pharmaceutical units that are operating in Sanand during the lockdown are working at just 20 per cent of their capacities because there are issues related to supply chain and unable to get raw materials on time. The finished goods are not able to move out in time. There are a lot of difficulties which do not have immediate solutions. But we are hoping that once some activity begins, the streamlining will happen in a month or so.”
Shah said that the thermal guns made mandatory for each industrial unit wanting to start production are difficult to get. “We are not able to get thermal guns from the market. We have only three and we are hoping to use it between the few who will open initially,” he added.
After members of Sanand Association met Ahmedabad collector KK Nirala in evening Friday, Shah said,
“We have submitted a proposal to the collector, listing around 100 industries including that of packaging, plastic and engineering that can start operating from April 20. The proposal is yet to be given green signal. According to our estimate, a total of 700-800 workers will be operating in these industries. We also have a proposal to create a sanitisation chamber in the Sanand GIDC where workers will be sanitised before they enter and after they leave from work. Protection kits will also be given to workers if required.”
At Alang Shipbreaking Yard in Bhavnagar where around 20,000-25,000 migrant workers are waiting for the ship recycling work to begin, the Ship Recycling Industries Association (SRIA) said any activity at the yard will result into stockpiling.
“We are confused. Where will we sell? Where are the markets? A lot of our material gets sold outside Gujarat like Punjab, Maharashtra and Daman. Even if we start in Alang, the steel rolling mills and the furnaces and the construction industries also need to start alongside. Otherwise it will simply lead to stockpiling,” said Haresh Parmar, a shipbreaker and secretary of SRIA.
“Because Bhavnagar is a hotspot, we have asked the district collector about how to go about it,” Parmar said the shipbreakers at Alang will apply for permission only after the district collector briefs them.
K G Kundariya, head of Morbi Ceramics Association, echoed similar concerns. “With state borders sealed and restrictions for entry and every district borders and with zero public transport, how will the labourers make it to our industrial units?” he said.
The textiles and diamond polishing players in Surat said they would not be able to restart as they face issues related to raw material supply, shortage of migrant labour force and social distancing issues. The president of Surat Diamond Association, Babubhai Katheriya said, “Around 5 lakh diamond polishers work in the diamond factories in Surat. These workers sit near each other and surround the emery wheels in the factory for cutting and polishing rough diamonds. Social distancing cannot be maintained in the factory, especially the smaller units. Moreover, the global markets for diamond jewellery in the US, Europe and other countries are closed, so we doubt if we will be able to restart units even after May 3.”
Moreover, most of the diamond polishers who hail from Saurashtra region of Gujarat have returned to their villages during the initial part of the lockdown, he added.
The textile industry leaders said that they need the entire value chain – weaving, spinning, dyeing, printing and embroidery – to function in tandem. “If powerloom cluster gets permission to start factories, then it will run only for two to three days as there is very limited stock of raw material,” said Babju Sojitra, vice-president of Federation of Gujarat Weavers’ Association. (Input from Vaibhav Jha)
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