WHEELS OF around 100 factories started spinning again and a trickle of life was perceptible in Shapar-Veraval, a cluster of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) around 18 km south of Rajkot city, as government permitted industries in rural areas to resume operations after a month, on Monday.
At around 8 am, around 80 workers and administrative staff lined up outside the gate of Galaxy Technoforge (India) Private Limited (GTIPL), a firm manufacturing hot forged components and rolled rings which have applications from railway locomotives to diesel engines powering water pumps on agricultural fields. One of the security guards at the gate checked their body temperature. Another guard, sprayed hand sanitiser on the palms of each staff member and gave him or her a face mask.
Before they could enter the forging shop, they were directed to pass through a full-body disinfectant chamber installed near the security cabin. The process took around an hour. Once inside the forging shop, workers dusted off the machinery and soon the induction furnace started heating up setting the mechanical forging hammers thundering.
“There is some relief after days of worry and anxiety. Now that the factory has started, my mind would not be occupied all the time thinking about my wife Tetradevi and son Anand (17),” said Chandra Pal (46), operator of a mechanical forging hammer.
A native of Ara in Bihar, Pal is the youngest among two brothers and two sisters. He owns half-an-acre, land which his wife and son who is studying in Class X, cultivate. Pal, a Class X pass out, has been working in GTIPL since its inception in 2002 and lives in the labour colony of the factory. “It was difficult to remain confined to my quarter round-the-clock during the lockdown. I would talk to my family every alternate day and try to while away time by watching Ramayana on co-workers phones,” added Pal.
Kishor Tilara, managing director of GTIPL, said that while he has started his factory, the industry is yet to get back on stream. “I have raw material for a week and many of my suppliers have not resumed operations though I will have to keep the factory running for 15 days to honour the present orders on my book. I source raw-material from as far away as Visakhapatnam and supply finished products up to Rajasthan. Transport lines continue to be disrupted. But I had to start the factory for fear of losing workers. These workers are our assets and if they leave en masse for their native places, industries will collapse,” said Tilara, who is also president of Shapar-Veraval Industrial Association (SVIA), a chamber of around 1,300 MSMEs in the cluster.
GTIPL has an annual turnover of Rs 45 crore and pays Rs 18 lakh cumulative salary to its employees per month.
Tilara said that soon after the 21-day nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, local authorities told SVIA that buses were being arranged to ferry migrant workers to their native places but the chamber didn’t circulate message among its members fearing a mass exodus. “We have taken their care as best as we could. We distributed 25,000 ration kits besides supporting Anandi Ashram which was serving around 1,200 meals per day,” said Tilara adding around 3,000 MSMEs in Shapar-Veraval directly employed around 45,000 and 55,000 indirectly.
The MD said that of the 120 people working in his factory, around 80 are migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. They live in a labour colony adjoining the factory premises. The company got SVIA to issue transit passes to 20 other workers who are from Gujarat and who had left for their native villages after lockdown began on March 22.
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