Hyderabad: Industry in Telangana has been unofficially greenlighted to resume operations, and 30 per cent of factories have. By the end of next week, that figure could go up to 90 per cent, officials in the Industries Department said.
Officials orders allowing resumption are not out yet. For that, the nicety of the Telangana cabinet meeting, scheduled to take place on May 5, has to be gone through. Telangana's lockdown phase 2 doesn't end until May 7, but a whole new regimen of work practices and coronavirus safeguards have already been conveyed to industry to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“We have told industries to go on and not wait until then (May 5). To ensure they have no issues, all police departments and officials concerned have been instructed to cooperate with them,” said Jayesh Ranjan, the information technology and industries secretary.
As can be expected, the resumption is subject to a whole list of caveats -- some with implications for workers. Such as employees aged over 50 and those who suffer from ailments such as diabetes or blood pressure are being told to stay home. Similarly people living in containment zones are prohibited from reporting to work.
The question arises then whether industry will be at liberty to layoff the over-50, diabetic and/or hypertensive workers and those who cannot commute out of containment zones. If they are not to be at such liberty, what safeguards might be available to such workers?
Factories located within industrial development areas (IDAs) and special economic zones (SEZs) will be allowed to open subject to social distancing guidelines and sanitary standards.
Factories located outside IDAs and SEZs will be allowed to function only if they have access control mechanisms for their employees. They will also be required to provide their employees housing on the premises.
Factories can work until 6 pm, which is curfew time. Those requiring continuous processing, such as steel manufacturing units, will be allowed to function round the clock, but they would have to provide accommodation for employees as they won’t be allowed to go home during the curfew hours.
Companies will have to position temperature scanners at entry points. All personnel will be required to wear masks at all times, without exception. There won't be any cafeterias or addas where workers can congregate at mealtime. They will eat at their desks.
Factories have been told to reduce the number of employees at work at any point in time.
Jayesh Ranjan's staff have worked out, on the basis of a study of industrial units in Cherlapally, that the optimum working capacity is 30 per cent, beyond which abiding by distancing guidelines becomes a challenge.
Industrialists of course are assessing the impact of the corona-triggered regimen upon their own health--in particular, the loss of services of migrant workers, who have been allowed to go home. K. Sudhir Reddy, president of the Telangana Industrialists Federation (TIF), said there would be some problems.
“Some migrant workers may want to return home, as they have been stuck here for many days without work. I think some will choose to stay here as work will resume soon. In any case, it will take a few months for those who have left to come back. It will definitely affect the companies until then,” he said.
Jayesh Ranjan said the impact may not be too bad. “Workers employed in factories generally possess some technical skills they have acquired over many years. Though they might be non-locals, they are more likely to have permanent residency in the state. This is unlike the construction industry where labour is seasonal or temporary, and unskilled,” he said.