Week on, Covid-19 concerns, strict norms keep most industries in Punjab shut
Only 1.32% of over 2.5 lakh registered units currently operating across stateUpdated: Apr 27, 2020 22:08 IST
The easing of lockdown norms by the Union home ministry and state government has done little to get the industries on track in Punjab.
A week after the Centre allowed industrial operations in non-containment areas with certain restrictions to restart economic activity, only 3,341, or say 1.32%, of the 2,52,741 registered units are working in the state, according to the latest information by the industries department. Of these industrial units, 2,650 were already running when the modified lockdown norms kicked in last week, while 691 have resumed production since.
The remaining factory owners have been held back by the strict norms, disruption of supply chain and the prevailing business environment even as fresh Covid-19 cases continue to fuel fears in the state’s industrial hubs. Five industrial districts of Jalandhar, SAS Nagar (Mohali), Patiala, Ludhiana and Amritsar account for 73% of the total 330 infected cases so far.
Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU) president Upkar Singh Ahuja said that minimum 70% industry must be allowed in one go on all-India basis along with warehouses, industrial supplies, and smooth transportation of goods, otherwise manufacturing activity would not start due to shortage of raw material and components. “At the same time, sales outlets should be opened in compliance with social distancing norms. Workers should be allowed to commute to the factories on foot or on own two-wheelers individually,” he said, listing the measures needed to restart industrial activity in a phased manner.
Seconding these views, Surinder Singh Chouhan, president of industrial focal point phase 6 in Ludhiana, said industry would find it difficult to resume operations till the entire supply chain, from availability of raw material to transportation and retail sale of products, is restored.
Industries Director C Sibin said the state government was giving permission to all those who fulfilled the conditions, but not many industries located within the city limits in places such as Ludhiana were granted relaxations under the modified lockdown norms issued by the Centre. “Also, industry and district administration are cautions about Covid-19 related health concerns,” he said, stating reasons for the lukewarm response across the state.
Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has, in a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah, also urged to allow opening of small shops, businesses and industries in all areas except containment zones, giving an assurance that the state would comply with the norms to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
In the state’s industrial hub of Ludhiana, 1,014 of the 95,202 units are operating currently. Of these, 413 factories had restarted operations during the initial 21-day lockdown (curfew in Punjab), which was extended by the Centre on April 14 for 19 more days, after the CM on March 29 had asked the industry to start operations to stop the exodus of migrant workers from the state.
Similarly, only a few factories are working in the remaining districts with lower staff capacities. In SAS Nagar, 160 of the 15,564 industrial units are open. In Amritsar, which is home to 20,200 units, only 121 are running as of now.
Balwinderpal Singh, general manager of district industries centre in Amritsar, said, “Being an old city, most factories are located within the urban limits. Those units located in rural areas, outside the municipal limits or in industrial zones are facing raw material availability and delivery issues,” he said, buttressing CICU’s contention.
The Union home ministry had on April 15 issued detailed guidelines allowing factories in rural areas (outside the limits of municipal corporations and municipalities), special economic zones, industrial townships, and industrial estates, besides export-oriented units (EoUs), in non-Covid hotspots and containment zones to reopen from April 20 onwards.