Despite opening of 2,000 industrial units that employ 40,000 in Jalandhar, several industrial labourers have started leaving the district for their home states with the exodus posing a challenge to keep the MSME units running.
There are 90,000 factory workers here and more than 55,000 have so far applied on the government portal to leave Punjab. Till Friday evening, around 13,000 labourers had left Jalandhar for their homes states in 9 Sharmik trains.
“I had opened my pipe fitting unit on May 4 and every day 10-15 labourers are missing from the work and upon inquiry, it is coming up that they have left for their home states after getting SMS of clearance of their train journey by the administration. Most of them were my permanent labour living in the accommodation provided in factory premises,” said factory owner Nitin Kapoor, adding that there is huge uncertainty about labour availability.
Raghav Dhir, Director, Shiva Polymers and Punjab state member of All India Plastic Industries Association, said that he is working with just 30 per cent of the total labour capacity needed for his factory. “I reopened it on May 3 and closed today because of labour shortage and the government should stop those who have already got work in the factories and will get work in the coming days with the opening of more units,” he said.
Dhir added: “MSMEs have been backbone of the economy, but today they are facing acute shortage of funds because of fixed expenses on providing salaries to the labour during the lockdown and other expenses. Union Ministry of Finance through RBI must issue direction to enhance Adhoc Limit to the extent of 25 per cent of the working capital limit against 10 per cent along with smooth running of the supply chain of manufactured material and raw material.”
Experts said that now industries must think about technology up-gradation, automation, robotics and ‘Make in India’ to survive.
President of the Udhyog Nagar Manufacturers Association, Tejinder Singh Bhasin, said that “daily I am getting calls from manufacturers’ about units opening today, and closing down tomorrow due to labour shortage”.
He added: “Even in my casting unit of valves, the moment labourers are getting the SMS of clearance of their journey to the home state through Sharmik trains, they are leaving instantly.”
Narinder Saggu, president of Focal Point Industrial Area Association and convener of North Chamber of Small and Medium Industries, said that in Jalandhar, 55,000 factory workers have already registered for returning home “which means we are left with less than 40 per cent of the labourers”.
“They are leaving because they are being encouraged to do so by their fellow labours and by government staff too. But government should stop those who are getting work here,” he said, adding: “At a melting unit in Jalandhar there were 42 workers in the morning and by evening half had left after getting SMS of their journey to home.”
Deputy Director, Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC), Opinder Singh said that after the exodus, the industry will be left with 30 per cent migrant labourers. “There is only 20 per cent local labour available here and in such condition, there would not be more than 50 per cent hands available in the industry of Punjab in the coming days,” he added.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines