COIMBATORE: When Southern India Mills Association (SIMA) conducted a mass recruitment drive in Tripura to net 1,600-odd workers, the move was hailed for its out-of-the-box solution to address the labour shortage the Manchester of South India was reeling under. However, in the din of jubilation, a fundamental question was left unanswered: where have the Tamil Nadu labourers gone?
Industry doyens claim that labour shortage is acute in Coimbatore, more so in technical sectors. The reason: alcoholism among workforce. As per industry sources, around 70 per cent of workforce is addicted to liquor and consumes alcohol daily. More insight is provided Tamil Nadu Open-end Mills Association (OSMA) president M Jayabal and Coimbatore SIDCO Industrial Estate Manufacturers Welfare Association (COSIEMA) president S Surulivel. According to them, over one lakh registered industries and 20,000 micro industries employ around eight lakh workers. However, alcoholism among workers has begun taking a heavy toll on industries.
Things have come to such a pass that there is a shortage of 30 per cent skilled workers in the manufacturing and service sector. Technical works entail handling high-end equipment, which cannot be entrusted to workers hung over from a night of binge drinking. This was the main reason behind SIMA carrying out a recruitment drive in Tripura. Other hubs the industry associations tap for manpower are Bihar and Odissia.
Besides reliability, the workforce from other states come cheap. At least 30 per cent of the labour requirement of the Coimbatore industries are met by migrant labourers. However, how long before the migrant labourers too take to drinks is the moot question.
Most industrialists care only for profits, leaving the labourers to fend for themselves in pitiable conditions, said sources, adding that until this aspect of employment was addressed, people would continue hitting the bottle. “The demand for prohibition holds little merit until the fundamental needs of the workers are addressed,” they added.