Delhi govt asks trade unions to help find labour amid coronavirus outbreak

In the appeal, Manoj Kumar, Delhi government’s secretary and labour commissioner, said this was the need of the hour “so that citizens of Delhi may get uninterrupted supply of essential foods and groceries.”
The Delhi government turned to trade unions to help it find the necessary workforce to labour in the national capital’s factories and warehouses, and also for transportation and distribution of essential commodities.

 
The Centre and state governments are struggling to restart at least some industrial activity as it becomes apparent that the 21-day nationwide lockdown imposed to check the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) could be extended beyond April 14, and stocks of essential commodities need replenishing across the country.

 
State governments, particularly those like Delhi that witnessed an exodus of migrant workers after the lockdown was announced, say there are not enough labourers in the city to work in factories and warehouses.

 
On Wednesday, the Delhi government’s labour commissioner issued an “appeal” to all registered trade unions to “help/coordinate/facilitate in helping” factories and warehouses “in procuring adequate workforce”.

 
In the appeal, Manoj Kumar, Delhi government’s secretary and labour commissioner, said this was the need of the hour “so that citizens of Delhi may get uninterrupted supply of essential foods and groceries.” “Your cooperation and help in this hour of need will be a great help for citizens of Delhi,” Kumar stated.

 
Kumar further said that “those factories warehouses and transportation and distribution operations involved in processing and supply of essential foods and groceries should get uninterrupted supply of work force”.

 
In Kolkata on Thursday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told industrialists that her government had allowed movement of some taxis to ferry workers and allowed three additional people on trucks to aid in loading and unloading goods to boost movement of essential goods.

 
Local small, medium-sized goods carriers have been given permission to ply if carrying essential items. Tea estates in the state have also been allowed to open, provided they have only 15 per cent of workforce.

 
Banerjee said exceptions were being made for industries where continuous process was applicable and petitions to open plants would be reviewed on a case-to-case basis. However, Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha clarified that only industries producing essential items would be allowed to function.

 
On Thursday, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said his government was trying to ensure that some factories, particularly flour and daal (pulses) mills, start operations.

 
Baghel said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was hasty in announcing the lockdown on March 24, which led to shutting down of flour mills in his state. Also, prices of commodities and vegetables skyrocketed. “We are now trying to repair the situation. We have allowed factories to open, but under strict conditions. Flour, daal mills and those manufacturing pesticides for farmers have opened,” he said.

 
Baghel said his government had spoken to factory owners and industrialists about ensuring that workers get two meals a day and wages. “Workers were ensured a month’s wages, food and shelters. Industry took care of 39 lakh (3.9 million) workers so that they are not seen on roads,” he said.

 
Chhattisgarh has reported only 11 Covid-19 cases so far, one of the lowest in the country, and Baghel is not keen for the lockdown to end or for inter-state transit to be opened at the current juncture, as this could lead to entry of patients.

 


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