NEW DELHI: As the Covid lockdown restrictions were eased in Delhi, factory owners on Monday opened their establishments after six weeks with many grappling with shortage of labourers and raw materials, and fearing losses due to slump in production.
After a strict lockdown for six weeks since April 19, the Delhi government allowed industrial manufacturing and construction work in the city from Monday as part of its phased unlock process.
However, since the majority of the workforce had left for their native places fearing the unprecedented second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and the markets yet to open for supply of raw material, the industrialists said they can only calculate their losses.
“We have only been able to enter the factory and that is it. There is no way we can start work,” said Neeraj Sehgal, owner of Sehgal Doors in the Mayapuri industrial area.
“Only 20 per cent workers are here and there is no raw material because the government has not allowed the industrial use of oxygen, which is essential to make steel doors,” said Sehgal, who makes fire-rated doors and steel doors.
And since the rules deny the use of oxygen for industries, the price for raw material has skyrocketed.
“What we were buying earlier for Rs 55 per kg is now available at Rs 90 per kg. An increase of 65 per cent, can you believe this,”lamented Sehgal, who is also the general secretary of Mayapuri industrial area welfare association.
The pending electricity and water bills have only added to his woes. As per an order issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on May 29, the workers and employees at manufacturing units and construction sites will be required to carry e-passes for movement during the ongoing lockdown that has been extended to June 7.
Another industrialist, Ashok Gupta of Jugmug Shoes in Udyog Nagar, Peeragarhi, was bogged down by not being able to get e-passes for his workers.
“The workers have been calling from their home in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar asking if we have arranged e-passes. But the system does not work. We are not able to get any passes. The entire operation has been shut,” Gupta said.
Gupta, who manufactures shoes for other market players, has also incurred huge losses as he could not deliver the orders.
“We had six orders from Dubai, but now they are buying from China. If this goes on we will have to scale down significantly. There is also a loan of Rs 10-12 crore, how do we pay that without any work,” Gupta said.
The unlock guidelines also allowed resumption of construction activities with staggered work hours, proper social distancing among workers, adequate gaps between shifts, and staggered lunch breaks of staff.
NBCC (India) Limited chairman and managing director P K Gupta said labour contractors have been told to bring back labourers who were working at projects prior to the lockdown.
“The vendors engaged by NBCC are in continuous touch with various labour contractors who were working at projects prior to the lockdown for immediate re-mobilization of labours.
It is expected that labour will start returning to projects in the next seven to 10 days of time, Gupta told PTI.
While awaiting the return of labourers, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has started executing “some important preparatory works such as the floating of tenders for Japan International Cooperation Agency-funded sections”.
“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. Apart from carrying on with whatever physical work we could, we also executed,” a DMRC spokesperson said.
Apart from the reduced number of available labourers, the construction activities were also affected by the short supply of material.
“Although construction is allowed, we are facing a shortage of material as the supply has not yet resumed due to the lockdown,” Nishit Jalan, CEO- Grovy India Ltd, said. The company is currently developing several projects in south Delhi.
A DLF spokesperson said their construction partners were “extending all help for safe return of labour to the site”.
The construction company is developing a large project at Moti Nagar in the national capital.