Units have been shuffle by labour migration and delicate demand

Several sectors in Punjab find it tough to get back on track as labour exodus continues and demand remains weak. Industrialists believe that unless demand is revived, businesses will not be up and about.

“The Centre has recently announced a financial package, but it is mostly to revive supply chain; there has hardly been any focus to boost the demand,” Narinder Bhamra, president of the Fastener Manufacturers Association of India, told The Hindu.

“Most of the industries engaged in the manufacture of automotive components are shut in Ludhiana; even when we plan to restart, labour shortage is likely to hit us hard,” he says. The FMAI has written to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, urging the government to help out the units making nuts, bolts, studs, rivets and screws. “We have demanded that a vehicle scrapping policy be announced at the earliest; the GST on vehicles reduced to 10%; implementation of the BS-VI emission standards postponed till April 2021; and the interest rate lowered on purchase of new commercial vehicles,” Mr. Bhamra says. Industry representatives reason that all sectors, including hosiery and engineering, have been hit by the lockdown and labour exodus. “…mini-transporters, steel traders and furnace units have been hit the hardest,” Mr. Bhamra says.

Arvinderpal Singh, an Amritsar-based rice miller, says that despite the mill owners’ best efforts to retain the workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar most of them are heading home. “We offered them bonus and other benefits, but the emotional call seems to be driving them to go home. The rice industry is labour-intensive, and requires skilled manpower in the absence of which the output will drop significantly.”

Woollen and synthetic units look forward to restarting their operations. “Our industry has already lost a lot of business with blocked payments and orders. Now, this labour shortage will further compound our woes,” says Sandeep Sejdeh, who runs a woollen textile unit in Amritsar.

“We urge governments to come forward with a better and visionary economic stimulus, a viable and well- defined package — and not loans — to revive the industry in the country.”