Two days after the Gurgaon District Magistrate permitted industries to resume operations with 100% staff, and private offices with 50% staff, officials at these establishments as well as associations related to them cite restrictions on cross-border movement as a major impediment in their ability to take advantage of this relaxation.
Beginning May 1, District Magistrate Amit Khatri had imposed additional restrictions, barring people from crossing the border unless they had a pass issued by the state or the centre. Although people related to essential services had also been barred from entering Gurgaon at the time, the restriction has since been lifted for them. However, those working in sectors or organisations that do not fall under the essential services category continue to be denied entry into the city.
“We have been allowed to operate with 100 per cent of our staff, but most of the workers stay on the other side of the border, in areas like Kapashera, and cannot come because of sealing. Some owners also cannot come because they live in Delhi. Inter state movement passes are not being issued to us, how do we resume operations fully?” said Ashok Kohli, President of the Chamber of Industries of Udyog Vihar.
Udyog Vihar, which lies just across the border in Gurgaon, is home to automobile factories, garment manufacturing companies and BPOs. The industry hit hardest by the restrictions, however, is the garment industry.
“Garment is the most labour intensive of the industries, and the desperation was also most in this sector because the season is ending. Summer season ends by June so companies had some demand from overseas of which they could have taken advantage. Buyers allowed them to ship goods until mid June but, with the border sealing and the migration happening, the working has been impacted badly,” said Animesh Saxena, president of the Udyog Vihar Industrial Association and CEO of Neetee Apparel LLP.
At his manufacturing unit in Udyog Vihar, Saxena says “only 15 to 20 per cent” of the staff of 700 is currently able to make it to work, since the rest reside in Delhi.
“This is the norm in other industries as well, nobody is being able to operate with more than 15 or 20 per cent staff despite the allowance of 100 per cent workforce,” he said.
For the people working in these industries, however, the situation has become so dire that many risk police action as they attempt to sneak across the border.
Anil Kumar, a resident of Kapashera who hails from Bihar and works at a garment factory in Udyog Vihar, said, “Until May 1, some of us were able to cross the border using passes issued by the district administration. Since the additional restriction, however, these have become invalid and we have to resort to sneaking across by scaling walls or tiptoeing through fields to enter Gurgaon early in the morning, around 3 or 4 am, despite our duties starting only around 8 or 9 am, if we want to go to work.”
Saurav, a resident of Kapashera who works as a security guard at a factory in Udyog Vihar added, “Industries have opened and employers expect us to go to work or else our pay will be cut, so we have no choice but to adopt such measures. We have not been receiving wages during lockdown, I myself have been managing on ration being distributed or the little money I have saved. I have not paid my rent for 2 months, how long can we go on like this?”
The President of the NCR Chamber of Commerce and Industry, HP Yadav, warned that, if such restrictions persist, the coming days may see closure of many MSMEs .
“Many Industries and Trade establishments are not able to start their operations and those who are working are not able to work completely…Most of the workmen and staff who are commuting between Delhi and Gurgaon everyday are being harassed and sent back to their homes. If such a situation will prevail, then more than 10,000 MSMEs will have to close their operations in Delhi NCR in coming days,” he said.
Offices in Gurgaon, permitted to resume work with 50 per cent staff, have also been impacted by this sealing, with many saying they cannot utilise the relaxations allowed by the administration due to border sealing.
At Hughes Systique, for example, Managing Director Vinod Sood, who is also the Chair of the Haryana Chapter of NASSCOM, said, “We decided that its no point starting work from office yet because more than 50 per cent of our employees come from either Delhi or Noida. The same is also true of other NASSCOM companies. We felt that, with that kind of restriction, even if we resumed work from office, it would be very difficult because, for example, any project team has people living in different places, then managing things would be difficult. Since work from home has stabilised, we felt there would be no point returning to work with such limitations, so at least till the end of May, we will continue like this.”
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