Lockdown brings steel and allied industries in West Bangal to a grinding halt.

Kolkata: The West Bengal government’s indecision over allowing resumption of ‘Continuous Process Steel Industry,’ like Captive Power Plants, Sponge Iron, Ferro Alloy units, Pellet Manufacturing Plants and associated Rolling Mills in the state in view of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought the local steel and allied industries to a grinding halt. The industry employs over three lakh workers in the state who are presently without wages. Hence, industry watchers fear the prospect of disengagement of a large workforce.

According to Vivek Adukia, Chairman of the Steel Rolling Mill Association, many companies apprehending a mass exodus of their workmen, have made arrangement for their stay within the campus and nearby facilities maintaining strict control over their health and well being despite lack of any revenue source from operations.

“If the state government does not wake up to the grim reality, companies may be compelled to withdraw these facilities as resources are fast drying up,” Mr Adukia added. The industry fears that this could snowball into a larger problem.

Trade unions also feel the situation could fast spin out of control as workers face livelihood issues.

Already the labour is showing signs of impatience over their grave condition in the absence of wages, their sole means of survival. The West Burdhaman district secretary of CITU, Mr Manoj Dutta has exhorted the state government to make it convenient for the industrial units to resume operation. He said that both the Central and State governments must take a pragmatic approach to the issue and work in unison so as to enable the industry to re-start.

Citing the plight of the workers, Mr Dutta said this could lead to social unrest and precipitate unwanted problems in the state.

He also urged the state government to allow at least 50 per cent of the workers to resume duty, which will help units to commence operations and assured the government that the workers will be directed to take all necessary steps to help managements to keep the environment safe.

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