Migrant Exodus: Factories In Madhya Pradesh Open Without Workers, Traders Blame State, Centre For Chaos

Migrant Exodus: Factories In Madhya Pradesh Open Without Workers, Traders Blame State, Centre For Chaos

With lockdown 2.0, the Union Home Ministry eased off some restrictions and allowed the small, medium and large scale industries but made no arrangements to stop the migration of the workers, who are key to run the factories.

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The mass migration of workers and labourers from cities to native villages after the imposition of lockdown has created a vacuum of non-technical and unskilled workers in Madhya Pradesh.

The major industrial areas of the state including Pithampura (Dhar), Mandideep (Raisen), Banmore (Morena), Singrauli which accounted for 95 per cent of the total revenue of the state are facing a massive shortage of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers as the factories resumed the production.

With lockdown 2.0, the Union Home Ministry eased off some restrictions and allowed the small, medium and large scale industries to work with 50 per cent of the workforce, maintaining social distancing with other relaxed norms. But, the government has made no arrangements to stop the migration of the workers, who are key to run the factories. As a result, the factory owners facing hardship to keep a pace in the production even after three weeks of the opening.

Left with no job, ration and money, lakhs of unskilled and skilled labourers who were abandoned by the factory owners and contractors. after the imposition of lockdown have been returning to their homes with much toil, unlikely return to the work soon, said labour Union leader Pramod Pradhan.

"Labours migration led to the shortage of manpower in the industrial areas. And factories have not been able to start production properly," said Gautam Kothari, President, Pithampur Audhyogik Sangathan. Pithampura Industrial area is state's largest industrial belt contributing about 80 per cent of the total revenues generated by industrial belts in the state.

"When industries are gradually starting operations and would steadily increase capacity utilisations, the government is sending migratory workers to their native villages. Availability of unskilled, semi-skilled and casual workers is going to be a major challenge for industries in coming months," he said.

The industries are bearing the brunt of Centre's unplanned lockdown, claimed industry bodies and trader unions. They added,

the Centre has relaxed norms to resume the work in factories, but easing guidelines may not compensate for the loss of migratory workers, industries heavily dependent on.

"The lockdown and the subsequent events have weakened the relationship between the labourers and the factory owners or contractors. It will take time to regain the labours' trust and bring them to work," President of the Govindpura Industrial Estate, Amarjeet Singh said.

More than three lakh semi-skilled and unskilled workers who used to work in Pithampura, Banmore, Mandideep, Singrauli power plants, Cement factories in Rewa, have now migrated. The workers engaged in multiple works including loading and unloading of the goods from the vehicle, packaging, transporting the material from one place to another, guarding and others in various companies, according to the industry associations.

An industrialist from Pithampur requesting anonymity said, "In the near term, workers are not an issue because we are asked to operate with a skeleton staff but what about after a month when lockdown goes off. Lack of proper planning and execution led to massive migration of workers from across the states and this would adversely hit industries and their production capacities."

Dr RS Goswami, the owner of a pharmaceutical unit in Govindpura Industrial area, said, "There is a huge shortage of workers. Ingredients and packaging material are also not available. A major component of the packaging material comes from Gujarat and Mumbai, where only 25-30 per cent units have started production."

Prominent Labour right activist of Madhya Pradesh, Pramod Pradhan launched a scathing attack on the State and Centre for the prevailing workers' exodus and shortage of manpower in industries. "When the factories were shut, the Government urged the labours to stay where ever they are. And now, when the factories resumed functioning, the government is transporting labourers to their home. This is happening because of the unplanned lockdown. It will cost both, the labourers and the factory owners," Pradhan said.

Dewas district president of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh Ajay Goswami said that the circumstances in which workers have moved along with their families and had to travel on foot for days to reach their natives, it is unlikely they or their families would allow them to be back to cities for work.

The situation is more glaring with the real state industry. The construction companies left with no workers to begin the work as the media reports claimed that contractors and construction companies have abounded the daily wages labour.

Recently, the Karnataka Government had cancelled the Sharamik trains, which was supposed to transport labourers to their native State after meeting with the real estate and construction companies. But, the Government rolled back its order as the pressure mounted from the media.

"Madhya Pradesh government recently tweaked labour laws to attract the industries. Nevertheless, the State is facing a shortage of semi-skilled and unskilled workers. And the way they have been abandoned by factory owners and the Governments, it's hard to say that they will return to work so quickly" said Badal Saroj, a labour rights leader and senior leader of CPI (M).

Also Read: 'How Can We Stop This If They Sleep on Tracks?' SC On 16 Migrant Workers Killed In Aurangabad

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