migrant workers: Punjab industry fears ‘exodus’ of migrant labourers

CHANDIGARH: Industry in Punjab fears “exodus” of migrant workers from the state after the Centre allowed stranded labourers to move back to their respective places.

Industry representatives are concerned over resumption of units if labourers go back to their native places.

“We are sad to hear that the government has allowed migrant labour to go back to their homes. If the government wants us to restart our units, how can this be possible without the workforce,” United Cycle and Parts Manufacturers Association president D S Chawla said on Saturday.

He said whatever migrant labour was available in the state would return to their natives places as the government has started special train services to ferry them.

“When migrant labourers will learn that trains have started to take them, even those ones who have not planned to go back will surely move out of the state, leaving the industry in lurch,” said Chawla.

Industry leaders said if the government had to allow migrant labourers to go back then why industry was being asked to restart their operations.

In the past several days, many units in different industry verticals in the state have come forward to restart their operations in non-containment zones in line with the guidelines of the ministry of Home Affairs.

On Wednesday, the Centre had allowed migrant workers, tourists, students and other people stranded in different parts of the country to move to their respective destinations with certain conditions.

Punjab has around 10 lakh migrant workers including 7 lakh in Ludhiana alone. Majority of migrant labourers are from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Meanwhile, the Ludhiana’s textile segment was of the view that they did not have problem if migrant workers go back to their homes, saying their units were shut on account of lack of orders.

“Our summer orders are stuck due to the lockdown. The winter apparel orders have not been finalised yet. Then how can we start our factories and for whom should we make,” said Ajit Lakra, president Ludhiana Knitwear Association.

“We do not have order and money. Majority of Ludhiana textile industry is not in a position to start their units. Most of the textile and apparel makers are happy that they (migrant labourers) return. If they go back, our financial burden will also ease to some extent. They can come back after the situation turns normal,’ said Lakra.

Punjab’s industry especially micro, small and medium enterprises sought a financial package from the government. They also wanted waiver in interest on loan, moratorium on loan instalments to enable them to revive their units.

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