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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Industries grapple with reverse migration of workforce, disrupted supply lines

When the civic body allowed small and medium scale industries in Pimpri-Chinchwad to reopen after almost two months, many enterprises realised that much of their workforce, comprising migrant labourers, had already returned home with little or no plans of returning early.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune | May 27, 2020 11:14:18 pm
The SME sector in the PCMC employs at least 3-4 lakh people with migrant labourers forming the bulk of the workforce.

Sanjay Satav, owner of SS Engineering Works in Bhosari MIDC, was among the first industrialists to restart operations once the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) allowed industries to reopen. Unlike his competitors, Satav’s order pipeline was full, yet his unit is unable to fulfil them for the simple reason that his workforce of 15 is down to just 6.

“As soon as the lockdown was announced, most of my labourers left for home in Uttar Pradesh – the others also were on the verge of leaving but we persuaded them to stay. But the production line is severely impacted,” he said.

When the civic body allowed small and medium scale industries in Pimpri-Chinchwad to reopen after almost two months, many enterprises realised that much of their workforce, comprising migrant labourers, had already returned home with little or no plans of returning early.

The SME sector in the PCMC employs at least 3-4 lakh people with migrant labourers forming the bulk of the workforce.

For people like Satav, whose units make machine parts for the pharmaceutical industry, raw material like stainless steel sheets and iron ingots have already run out.

Satav had started his unit in 2000 and his annual turnover is at least Rs 2 crore, showing slow but steady growth before the lockdown. Three months ago, his order book was full with the unit working a 12-hour shift per day. The lockdown and the coronavirus outbreak saw pharmaceutical companies increasing their orders, which Satav is unable to fulfil. The unit, though small in size, uses the latest machinery, so he cannot employ unskilled labour.

“Besides labour, I am running short on raw materials. I used to source most of the raw material from Mumbai and the extended lockdown there has disrupted supplies,” he said, adding that he has stock to last for just a fortnight more.

Social distancing comes easily in Satav’s unit given the wide spacing between workstations. Also, a sanitising unit has been installed at the entrance to the workshop. Temperature check of employees been made mandatory. “Things are not that difficult – but where are the people who will work? I do not foresee my former employees returning before Diwali,” he said.

For now, Satav and his small team are hoping that their raw materials last till they finish their present workload.

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