Amid Covid-19 crisis, auto firms rush online for nod to open factories

Topics Coronavirus | Auto firms | factories

The Maharashtra government has also made it clear that workers cannot be moved from hotspots to any factory
Leading Indian auto majors Bajaj Auto and the Volkswagen group are applying online for permission to open their factories after the Maharashtra authorities on Saturday came up with guidelines that units could work with up to 30-40 per cent of their staff strength, but with tough riders.

Tamil Nadu and Haryana, which house key industrial estates and large auto hubs including big players like Hyundai and Maruti Suzuki, were holding discussions with industry till late in the evening on Sunday.

A source privy to the meeting with the Tamil Nadu authorities, however, said the state promised to come up with detailed guidelines on Monday.  Based on the central government guidelines, factories can start operating from Monday. However, most of the big manufacturers say it will take much longer for them to be ready to get permission.
The Maharashtra government has asked factories to apply online to Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation or the district collectorate concerned. It has also provided some flexibility to large manufacturers by permitting them to arrange for a dedicated transport facility with precautions such as social distancing, 30-40 per cent occupancy in buses, temperature checks, and mandatory uses of masks.

Earlier manufacturers like Volkswagen had expressed their inability to house, in accordance with the central government guidelines, even part 5,000-6,000 workers and their vendors on the factory premises or nearly hostels.

The Maharashtra government has made it clear that workers cannot be moved from hotspots to factories and no worker can come to the factory walking or on a two-wheeler, though managers can use a car or a two-wheeler with police permission.

Another restriction many manufacturers say will delay the re-opening of plants is that the local police have to give permission for the movements of the buses as well as employees.
It has also made it clear that in the case of non-compliance with any rule, the factory manager will be held responsible and punished. The chief executive officer of a leading car company said: “It could take months to get police permission for so many employees and that could delay starting production.”

Companies in Gurugram district say their talks with the local authorities have been “very positive”.

However, matters like keeping workers on the factory premises are being sorted out. This may be possible for smaller players but not larger ones. Sources in Maruti Suzuki said that there was no question of starting production from Monday.

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