Buses needed as govt frames business rules during coronavirus lockdown

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday allowed opening up of the rural economy from April 20, saying workers will have to be given transport as public transport in the country remains shut
Companies will need buses to take migrant labour to construction sites or host them nearby, as they meet new government guidelines on how businesses should manage during the national lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday allowed opening up of the rural economy from April 20, saying workers will have to be given transport as public transport in the country remains shut. Vehicles should run with adequate social distancing between passengers, said the ministry in its guidelines.

A spokesperson for office bus provider Shuttl said, "Buses, owing to their larger size and seat capacity, are uniquely positioned to implement these safety measures in the most affordable way. Shuttl's contactless mobility model coupled with thorough hygienv measures, would be an apt transport option for individuals and businesses as they resume work."


Millions of migrant workers have left cities for their homes and companies will have to make do with those left near construction sites. “Around 70 per cent of the labour is there with us and internal transportation has been allowed by the district administration for ferrying the labour force,” Dilip Buildcon CEO Devendra Jain told Business Standard.

Construction has been allowed, but using "in-situ" labour. “We gather that most of the companies engaged in road construction are geared to start construction. While initially the pace of construction could be slower compared to the pre-Covid times, it will gather pace in some time. As for the transport facilities, in order to facilitate labour movement they would have to meet the norms for social distancing," Kushal Singh, Partner, Deloitte India.  

Hetal Gandhi, director, CRISIL Research, said companies may have to provide onsite engineers and workers accommodation as there is no local transport or ferrying them requires security clearances.


Jain said the challenge lies in the ironing out supply chains. “Factories have to start the supply chain – cement, steel and bitumen --- which is the backbone of any construction activity,” he said. To address their joblessness issues, therefore, some states had asked the central government to allow construction activity to begin in areas with zero or minimal spread of Covid-19.

There has been widespread criticism over handling of the migrant labour crisis at the time of announcing the 21-day lockdown on March 24. Thousands of migrant workers walked hundreds of kilometres to try reaching homes when industries and businesses shut down for the lockdown and public transportation came to a halt The home ministry on March 29 issued instructions asking states to stop workers from leaving states or cities due to fear that they will spread the coronavirus. 


Haryana, for instance, said it was able to retain around half of its labour force. Companies were asked to host workers, who were were fed and attended to by non-government agencies.


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