The Sachin Industrial Cooperative Society, a body of textile, chemical and other industries, has written to the managing director of the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), seeking permission to construct rooms for its migrant labourers on their industrial plots, within the GIDC, to provide the latter with hygienic living conditions in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dated October 9, the letter by the society’s president, Mahendra Ramolia, stated, “Keeping (in mind) the bitter experience faced by migrant labourers during the Covid-19 pandemic, please permit at the earliest to allow building homes for them in five to 10 percent of the land allotted to each allottee.”
As per the rules of the GIDC, which are government-run industrial estates, plots allotted for industries cannot be used for residences and violations invite heavy penalties.
However, the state government had relaxed the norms till March 2021 and allowed “temporary structures” to be built for labourers, the managing director of GIDC, M Thennarasan, told The Indian Express. He also acknowledged the receipt of the letter from the Sachin Industrial Cooperative Society.
Deeply distressed with various industries shutting down during the Covid lockdown, around 13 lakh labourers working in sectors such as textiles, embroidery, chemicals, etc, had migrated from Surat to their native places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha. Some had left on foot, some on bicycles and some on whatever mode of transport was available.
One of the largest GIDCs in Surat, the Sachin GIDC has over 2,250 industrial units on plots varying from 1,000 sqm area to 20,000 sqm area. Ninety percent of these include textile – dyeing and printing – units, powerloom units, chemical units, embroidery units and engineering units. Over three lakh workers hailing from UP, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand work at the Sachin GIDC. With industries gradually reopening post the issuance of unlock guidelines, labourers have started returning to Surat. However, these industries are presently functioning only at 40 percent capacity.
Ramolia’s letter, a copy of which is with this paper, noted that there is “no sign of normalcy returning to the industry before Diwali”. Factory owners have been sending private luxury buses, offering air tickets and Railways tickets to aid the labourers’ return, so that they may meet their business demands of Diwali and other upcoming festivals.
Ramolia’s letter also noted that the current quarters of the labourers have “eight to 10 persons in one room”, which he said was not possible under the current circumstances. The rooms are usually 10 feet in width and length.
In a meeting of the Sachin Industrial Cooperative Society and its members on Friday, it was decided that the association should seek permission from the state government to construct rooms in five to 10 percent of their allotted industrial plots areas, where labourers can stay and work at the factory.
Thennarasan told this paper, “Looking at the Covid situation, the government had given them temporary relaxations for setting up temporary structures and the time period is till March 2021. They cannot use the margin area as if in the future some fire incident takes place, that is required for the movement of fire tenders. We have not given them permission to build permanent structures.” He agreed to look into the demand for building quarters.
President of Sachin Industrial Cooperative society, Mahendra Ramolia, said, “Labourers are slowly returning… with empty pockets, and they face the issue of paying rent deposits to room owners… The labour colonies outside the GIDC area are pathetic, non-hygienic and lack air circulation. Once we get the permissions, we will construct good, airy rooms with bathrooms and other facilities. If we provide them with the best facilities, they will work well and we will benefit.”
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