Workers wait for langar to be served at Focal Point, Ludhiana, on Sunday. (Photo: Gurmeet Singh)
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s nod to factories to open up provided they quarantine their labour within the units, and make arrangements for meals while maintaining health standards, has not gone down well with the industry with some calling the move a "blunder".
Pankaj Sharma, president of Association of Focal Point Industries said, "Punjab implemented the curfew in a strict manner and we appreciated their concern to contain the spread of corona pandemic. However, now this comes as a big blunder due to which they will be exposing the entire state to risk. Just to favour one per cent of industry who have few pending orders, they have passed these orders. Arranging boarding, lodging and safety standards for all workers is not practical and where are we going to sell our product? Just as Delhi government failed to control their workers, the Punjab government passed these orders in a hurry."
Charanjeet Singh Vishwakarma, former president of United Cycles Parts and Manufacturers Association (UCPMA), said, "Who will be checking as to whether all are following safety norms or not? It shows a lack of seriousness of Punjab government towards controlling a pandemic."
Gurmeet Singh Kular, president of the Federation of Industrial and Commercial Organisation, pointed out, "We have provided ration to our workers, they are staying here and not going anywhere. Only 1 or 2 per cent daily wagers are going and for them, they have passed these orders. It is not justified at all. What if any positive patient comes in even one factory, it will be sealed and the person will be held accountable."
Wondering the rationale behind the government move, Amit Mittal, an industrialist, said, "We have no raw material, can't dispatch it to other states. Further, how can we check social distancing of workers all the time, it is an additional burden for us. In addition to this, we have been asked to arrange a medical professional as well."
The head of another industry body, the Ludhiana Focal Point Association Phase 6, Rajan Gupta asked why stakeholders from industry were not invited for consultations before taking this decision. “We are not keen to open our units. Why is Punjab government in a hurry? The very purpose of lockdown will be defeated as it is a chain reaction."
Claiming that this a heavy burden being put on the industry, Badish Jindal, president of Small Industries Association, said, "We want that Punjab government should exempt power bills, property tax...We will fight for it.” Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioners of all districts have also asked the industries to contact GMs of respective industry centres for seeking permissions to run their units.
Narinder Bhamra, president of Fastener Manufacturers Association of India, said, "We unitedly oppose this decision of running factories and demand waiver of minimum charges and deferment of all taxes and statutory obligations till June 30, 2020. The government wants us to pay bills and hence they have issued such orders without taking feedback of industry."
Gaurav Sood, another industrialist, said, "People are opposing it in majority. So, the government has to rethink their decision. Otherwise, some will open, some will not. Moreover, some will try to open without following instructions which will be dangerous. If they want this then they should officially declare that lockdown is over amid threat of a pandemic."
‘Will defeat the purpose’: IMA opposes Punjab move
Ludhiana: The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also strongly objected to the move of the state government to open all industrial units to function with riders. Dr Gaurav Sachdeva, senior vice-president of IMA, Ludhiana unit, said, "The medical fraternity and the medical associations strongly oppose this step. This will defeat the purpose of social distancing and quarantine. It will be impossible to maintain social distancing when the factories are open. The medical fraternity is struggling to ensure steps to contain the spread of the virus, arrange personal protective equipments for the health care staff, arrange special wards/ICUs for the impending epidemic.”
“The only way to contain this virus is by prevention. In no way we will be able to handle this disease if it reaches the proportion of countries like Italy. Our Prime Minister has announced a package worth crores of rupees to fight this epidemic. All that money will also be of no use, if the epidemic reaches in Stage 3 or 4. We don't know under whose able advice this step has been taken. We request the administration that this step should immediately be withdrawn," he added.