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‘Lockdown panic among workers’: Industry owners seek relaxation

Small industry and factory owners Sunday requested the Delhi government to keep manufacturing and production units open at least 50% capacity to avoid migration of migrant workers, as Covid cases go up in the city.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced Sunday that the government did not intend to impose a lockdown and that people should follow Covid-appropriate behaviour to avoid it.

Cases have risen rapidly in the city over the past two weeks, with over 22,000 cases being recorded on Sunday alone. The active case count is above 60,000.

A meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) to discuss cases, hospital beds and restrictions will be held on Monday.

Industry leaders, meanwhile, said that panic was setting in among daily wage workers in the city.

After the surge in cases, the Delhi government last week imposed a weekend curfew under which all non-essential activities, including industries and factories not producing or manufacturing essential goods, were closed.

Industry and factory associations said many workers were fearing a lockdown and were planning to head to their villages or to NCR cities where there are no restrictions.

“Industries already faced huge losses in the first two waves and the recent ban following air pollution. While they will pull through, it is labourers who have suffered a lot — their livelihood depends on daily earnings. No one in my factory has left yet, but rumours of a lockdown are doing the rounds…,” said Rajan Sharma, president of the Delhi Factory Owners Federation and president of the Okhla Industrial Estate association.

Anil Gupta, chairman of the East Delhi Manufacturers Association, added, “There are 3,000 factories and small industries in Delhi and due to night and weekend curfew, they have faced a loss of Rs 25-30 crore in just a few days… if workers leave, it is very hard to assemble them again. They won’t stay even if the curfew is extended for two more days. We request the government to allow industries to work with at least 50% capacity.”

Punit Goyal, who runs a steel and machine cutting industry in Anand Parbat Industrial Area, said he had built staff quarters with independent toilets for casual workers as they suffered the most during lockdown.

“It is not just weekend curfew but restrictions at night have also affected industries as well labourers — many also work in loading, unloading and transportation and have been affected because of the night curfew.”

Manufacturing and factory associations also suggested that the government let industries to run 24×7 so workers can stay on the premises.

Neeraj Sehgal, general secretary of the Mayapuri Industrial Welfare Association said small industries contribute 30% to GDP: “The government should consult us before taking any decision. Lakhs of labourers will suffer again.”

There are about 1 lakh registered MSMEs in Delhi and about 10 lakh workers are employed here. Of these, 60% are permanent and 40% are casual workers.

Government officials did not responds to calls and messages seeking comment.



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