In an attempt to control local transmission of coronavirus, Surat Municipal Corporation’s health department instructed diamond factory owners, textile traders, and dyeing and printing mill owners to arrange Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) for their employees. The administration has also warned of action for non-compliance.
Till July 30, Surat recorded 10,540 Covid-19 cases and 476 deaths. With a large number of cases from diamond and textile industries, officials issued the notice a couple of days ago urging the diamond and textile associations to ask their members to arrange Rapid Antigen Tests for their employees and ensure that the cost is borne by the firm owners. From August 3, SMC teams will conduct inspections to find if the firm owners are complying with the order.
SMC deputy health commissioner Dr Ashish Naik said, “As a large number of cases were reported from textile and diamond industries, we instructed the diamond and textile associations to make sure that the firm owners arrange Rapid Antigen Tests for their employees. If any of the employees test positive, he should be shifted to a hospital. Our teams will carry out surprise checks and verify test reports. If the firm owners do not comply, the factory premises or shops will be sealed and a penalty amount will be slapped on the firm. SMC will use this penalty amount to carry out tests of the employees of these firms.”
There are over 4,500 small, big and medium-sized diamond factories in Surat which employ over around 5 lakh polishers. At present, the factories are running with 50 per cent staff.
In textile trading sector, there are over 67,000 shops in 170 markets in Surat which employ over 2 lakh labourers. In dyeing and printing sector, there are 340 mills where around 5 lakh migrant labourers work.
South Gujarat Textile Processing Association president Jitubhai Vakharia said, “At present, only 20 per cent of factories are running with 20 per cent production capacity due to shortage of work force. The dyeing and printing mill owners have started conducting Rapid Antigen Tests for their employees.”
Shree Ramkrishna (SRK) Exports, a leading diamond firm in Surat, has already carried out Rapid Antigen Tests for 1,000 employees. Two thousand more employees will be tested in coming days. Talking to The Indian Express, SRK Exports owner Govind Dholakia said, “Acting on the instructions of the SMC, we have spent Rs 7 lakh for Rapid Antigen Tests of 1,000 employees (each test costs Rs 700). Out of 1,000, 18 polishers have tested positive and they were initially treated by our in-house doctor and then sent on home quarantine. SMC officials had also taken details of these employees.”
Surat Diamond Association president Babubhai Katheriya said, “We have informed all factory owners about SMC’s directive. We will also follow-up if they are conducting the tests or not.”
Federation of Surat Textile Traders’ Association president Manoj Agrawal said, “We have already informed the traders about SMC’s notice, but they are not willing to spend on the employees. We have told them about SMC’s warning also. Now, it is up to them.”
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