As many as 15 powerloom factories in Laskana Diamond Nagar Estate in Surat that reopened after lockdown restrictions were relaxed, were shut down over the past two days due to labour shortage.
There are around 1,200 powerloom factories in Laskana area in Surat. Majority of the labourers are from Odisha. According to official figures, over 12 lakh migrant labourers working with textile and diamond industries returned to their native places during the lockdown imposed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Laskana Diamond Nagar Industrial Estate vice-president Haribhai Katheriya said, “After first unlock, around 15 per cent of the factories began operations with whatever labourers they were left with. The factories were running from 8 am to 7 pm. In the past couple of days, due to labour shortage, 15 factories shut down due to labour shortage.”
Chetan Ramani, a textile factory owner in Laskana diamond nagar industrial estate, who had to shut down his factory on Wednesday due to shortage of powerloom workers, said, “Before lockdown, there were 35 labourers working in my factory. One labourer can handle six machines, while some can even handle eight, depending on the quality of the fabric woven. When the factory reopened on May 23, I had only four labourers left. They took care of around 35 loom machines. Now they have also returned to Odisha. So, I had to close the factory.”
“Once the labourers reach their home state, they are initially kept in quarantine for 14 days. Only after that they are able to meet their relatives. We hope they will come back after one-and-a-half months. We are not sure when the industry will start functioning smoothly,” he added.
A large number of labourers working in the powerloom factories have migrated to their home state in Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Rajashtan in buses and trains. Between May 2 and May 17, around 440 trains were run from Surat to different states, each of them carrying around 1,800 labourers, apart from hundreds of buses that operated from Surat.
Federation of Gujarat Weavers’ Association president Ashok Jirawala said, “There are 50,000 small, big and medium size diamond factories. At present, only 15 per cent of them are running but are struggling to operate because of labour shortage. The factory owners have faced a great loss during lockdown but they paid salaries to the labourers.”
“We have written to the Central government urging them to again start free train services from Odisha, Bihar, UP, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand so that labourers can come back to Surat. We have written a letter in this regard to Union Railway minister Piyush Goyel and Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani,” he added.