Unlock 1.0: Factories Open In Noida, But Where Are The Workers?

Situation is such that migrant workers do not want to come back, they want to work in their villages.

2 min read

Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan

Video Editor: Varun Sharma

Post the lockdown, the government has given permission to reopen factories and industries to boost India’s economy. But, where are the factory workers? Ironically, during the third phase of lockdown, several industries were allowed to open but at the same time, the government also started special Shramik trains, that saw migrant workers leave en masse.

These workers, who were eagerly waiting for over a month to go back to their homes, did not want to miss this opportunity and chose to board the trains rather than looking for job opportunity in the cities.

Now, the situation is such that localities which were predominantly occupied by migrant workers now stand deserted.

“The situation is such that tenants are not willing to come back. They want to work in their own towns or villages.”
Amarjeet, property dealer in Noida

Around 80 percent of the population of Mamura village in Noida has left. Those who have stayed back either have a job to survive or are waiting to go back when the crowd dissipates.

The factory owners have orders pending but don’t have any workers for production. Most of the factories are running with 30-40 percent of the workforce.

“Post lockdown, orders were a lifeline for us... to stand back on our feet. But now, we are forced to decline orders because we do not have enough manpower to manufacture products.”
Abhinav Mahajan, Solar panel manufacturer in Noida

The worst hit are those manufacturers who required skilled labour.

“Since my workforce comprises only skilled labour, we cannot hire new labourers. We are working with only 50 percent of workers.”
Sandeep Agarwal, Food packaging factory owner

Workers Are Looking For Assurance From Govt & Us

The manufacturers are trying to woo their workers back by paying advance salary but that does not seem to be working.

“We are constantly calling our workers, requesting them to come back. We told them that we have orders pending. We also offered them some advance payment, so that we can increase our production. Currently, they are looking for some assurances from the government as well as from us. But, we are not in a situation to make any promises.”
Kumkum, Garment factory owner

While some, on the other hand, who lost their jobs during the lockdown have started a small business to meet their ends.

“I used to work for Flipkart. Now, I have lost my job. Hence, I’ve started a grocery shop out of my home.”
Shivam Nagpal, Tenant of Mamura village in Noida

And those who have jobs are praying they don’t lose it.

“I am getting a salary but it’s not enough. Somehow, I’m surviving. I hope my company does not fire me. Right now, I don’t think my company will sack me but if things continue like this, then many would lose their jobs.”
Abhishek, Tenant of Mamura village in Noida

This clearly points to mismanagement on part of the government, in addressing the migrant workers’ issues. Had the government assisted the workers in going back to their homes in the initial stage of the lockdown then, probably, manufacturers would not have faced production problems.

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