Updated: April 25, 2020 1:08:18 pm
Almost a month after Punjab government asked industry to reboot operations by creating facilities to house labour and follow health guidelines, only 2,954 industrial units have resumed work against total 2,52,741 registered with the state’s Industry Department. That means that only 1.1 per cent of the total registered industrial units in Punjab were back in business till April 23.
In order to prevent exodus of migrant labour due to COVID-19 crisis, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh had on March 29 asked all industrial units in the state to commence work if they had adequate arrangements to accommodate workers safely within the premises, provide them food while ensuring social distancing. MHA’s April 15 guidelines brought further clarity to starting industrial activity in non-containment zones. But with industrialists still staying away, Punjab government, on April 23, clarified that industrialists will not be booked before an inquiry if any worker from there unit tests positive for COVID-19.
On Friday, CM again allayed industry fears on the matter by underlining that there was neither any intention nor direction on the part of the state government to impose any criminal liabilities on the industry and their CEOs for Covid-positive cases in their workforce.
After the CM’s clarification on penal action, Sanjay Dhir, who heads woolen manufacturing units in Ludhiana, said: “This threat was keeping us away from seeking permission. Moreover, there is no buyer in the market. Only essential services suppliers have opened their units.”
Special Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Punjab, C Sibin said: “Even Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has clarified the issue of action against industrialists.”
Meanwhile, to further boost industry confidence, Amarinder Singh on Friday also directed the Industries Department to provide all industrial units eligible to reopen with requisite approvals, along with required curfew passes, within 12 hours of applying. Speaking during a webinar attended by 100 industry stalwarts among others, Amarinder assured that he will raise the issue of central support to industry during the forthcoming PM’s video-conference. “The industry cannot pay wages endlessly,” he said.
Punjab had on Thursday also told industrialists to seek permission on Punjab government’s portal rather than at district offices. Sibin said that 167 online applications were received in a single day after the announcement. “As of now a total of 2,954 units are already in operation…167 new applications are pending approval,” he said.
Out of total operational units, maximum, 897, are in Ludhiana, which has a total of 95,202 registered units. In Ludhiana, among the ones functional are those making PPE kits, masks, agricultural equipments, bakery products. Packaging industries connected to the opened units are also runnuing.
Faridkot has 392 out of 6,637 units open, the highest in Punjab so far.
In Ferozepur, out of 4,183 units, a total of 288 have opened. Barnala is at the fourth place where 250 out of 2,604 units have opened. Fazilka is at the fifth place where 198 out of 2,509 units have opened.
In Ferozepur, Fazilka and Faridkot majority of units are rice shellers and brick kilns. Rice shellers were operational right from the lockdown’s start as milling of rice was being underway in Punjab. “However, high revenue generating industries are in Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Mohali area where less than 1% units have opened till now,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.
SAS Nagar (Mohali), which leads the state in COVID cases, has opened 151 units out of total 15,564. Mohali industrial area is not a containment zone.
Jalandhar, which is famous for sports industry, however has opened only 45 units out of 14,000 registered units, while Amritsar which is popular for textile, carpet industry, has opened only 79 units out of 20,200 registered units.
“We too are keen to come back to normal life, but we fear new cases which are being reported every single day. Moreover, many asymptomatic patients are being reported. Let’s see what happens next,” said Badish Jindal, president of the Small Industries Forum.
Sibin, meanwhile, said, “We are looking at the applications and process of giving permissions is on. We are studying the cases individually.”
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