Industries prepare to open with Covid tests and vaccinations
With plans to open Covid-19 test camps, vaccinate workers, make staggered lunch hours, and, perhaps the most important, invest in efforts to bring back workers who had left for their villages, enterprises in industrial areas in Delhi and construction agencies are prepared to resume business from Monday after six weeks of lockdown that was imposed in the Capital in the light of an unprecedented Covid-19 surge.
“We will strictly adhere to social distancing and Covid-19 regulations but only a small number of workers are likely to be present for the next few weeks. The government is going to assess the situation weekly. So, there is fear that if Covid-19 cases go up, the lockdown can be imposed again. Both employees and employers are treading with caution,” said Prabhu Dayal Gupta, owner of a factory that produces metal wires and sheets, and president of the Patparganj factory owners’ and entrepreneurs’ welfare association.
Such anxieties loomed over all industrial areas in the city even as they prepared for resuming business after a long time.
Satish Chhabra, vice-chairman of Narela industrial complex welfare association said, “There is fear that business operations can be suspended again but it will always be there with Covid-19 cases going up. So, we have to have good strategies in place. We have decided to vaccinate all our workers in collaboration with a private hospital.”
Several other factory owners across industrial areas in Delhi told HT that they will be vaccinating their employees and shared plans to periodically set up Covid-19 test centres.
“Business recovery will take a long time. So, production capacities are not likely to touch 50% any time soon. Also, a large number of labourers and workers who left the city during the lockdown are unlikely to return soon with their savings depleted in treatment of their relatives infected by Covid-19, lack of job security and fear of another wave of the pandemic which may again lead to a lockdown. Currently, only workers who have a house in slums are left in the city, that must be less than 20% of the total workforce,” said Neeraj Sehgal, general secretary of Mayapuri industrial area welfare association.
With construction activity allowed from Monday, construction firms and labour contractors have started mobilising the workforce. But labour contractors say that it will take some time due to the impact of cyclone in West Bengal, Bihar and rise in Covid cases in rural areas.
Shamim, a labour contractor working with government firms, said, “Most of the people working with me hail from Bihar. They have not been able to come due to heavy rains there. We have informed the workers that they can now come back.”
Anuj Dayal, executive director, corporate communications, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, said, “There was a significant decline in the number of workers during the lockdown. However, during these difficult times also, we took care of the workers who were available by taking care of their medical and other requirements. With the lifting of restrictions, we are hopeful that more workers will gradually join back their sites.
The National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC India), which is carrying out several important projects in the city such as redevelopment of Pragati Maidan, residential and commercial complex at Sarojini Nagar and Nauroji Nagar etc, said that work was going on but at slow pace.
“I think construction activity is not banned as works at NBCC sites are already on though with reduced labour. We hope that labourers will start coming back after lockdown and supply chains will also be restored,” said PK Gupta, Chairman and Director of NBCC (India) Limited.
Thaneshwar Adigaur, secretary of the Delhi Asangathit Nirman Mazdoor Union, said that this will only benefit big projects, as those working in the informal sectors are not likely to get work.
“The markets are closed. Where will construction workers in the informal sector buy construction material from? The marble, sanitaryware, markets etc are all closed. It will take some time for the labour to return. By the time work picks up pace, it will be July and work will again get affected due to the monsoon season,” said Adigaur.