LUCKNOW: While construction work on three major expressways in the state resumed with the partial lifting of the lockdown on Monday, around a dozen industries, which were allowed to restart operations, showed a very slow pace with the majority still in the stage of seeking permissions and passes for the workforce from the state authorities.
However, industries across 19 districts with 10 or more COVID-19 patients have not been allowed to resume operations. These include nearly all the major industrial hubs of the state like Agra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar (Noida), Lucknow, Meerut, Varanasi, Basti, Moradabad, Shamli, Firozabad, Bulandshahr, Saharanpur, Baghpat, Hapur, Bijnore, Amroha, Rampur and Sitapur.
“Those units which have the provision of housing their labour within the manufacturing unit premises would be allowed to function, barring the 19 districts, which would continue to observe lockdown,” said Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), home, Awanish Awasthi.
However, according to ACS, the work on the Purvanchal Expressway—from Lucknow to Ballia, Bundelkhand Expressway—from Chitrakoot to Eatwah and Gorakhpur Link Expressway linking Gorakhpur with Purvanchal Expressway, resumed construction in some pockets with medical check-up of the workers.
These high profile expressway projects are collectively estimated to cost more than Rs 42,000 crore. Earlier, Purvanchal Expressway used a workforce of 10,000 but under the lockdown conditions, it would be engaging a reduced workforce of 4,835 with strict adherence to health protocols. Similarly, Bundelkhand Expressway project normally engages around 6,000 workers in one stretch but under the current restrictions, only 2150 would be engaged while taking all the precautions.
Meanwhile, the resumption of industrial activities in the remaining 56 districts would also be under a tight vigil to ensure that they adhere to the social distancing and lockdown norms. The respective district administrations have been given the authority to ensure that there was no breach of the central government guidelines and Standard Operations Procedure (SOP).
Manufacturing activities are allowed as long as they use a maximum of 50 per cent of the total workforce in individual units, while commercial and secretarial offices of these companies cannot function in the meantime.
From April 20, 11 industries were allowed to start operations subject to the conditions, along with liquor distilleries. These include steel, refineries, cement, chemicals, fertilisers, garments (excluding apparel), foundries, paper, tyre, common effluent treatment plants and sugar mills. However, only the manufacturing and industrial units were permitted to function and not their headquarters or administrative offices.
However, the owners of micro, small and medium units seemed to have been caught between the devil and the deep sea. “The strict SOPs are difficult to be followed. While on one hand the MSME units want to resume operations as they have already incurred so much losses due to the lockdown, on the other, they are finding it risky to engage the workforce with proper medical testing. Moreover, many of the unit owners do not have the means to ensure testing of the workforce,” says DS Verma, an office bearer of the Indian Industry Association.
He adds that even if the operations are resumed and any of the workers test positive for the virus while being at work, then the harsh norms including FIR on owner, action under NSA, National Disaster Act and Epidemic Act will be difficult to bear. “Consequently, the MSMEs will wait more as they lack the facilities which are required to fulfil the pre-conditions for resumption,” says Verma.
In the meantime, the state industrial authorities are also getting applications from industrial unit holders seeking permission to resume operation and reaching out to the respective district administrations to issue passes to the workers. As per Principal Secretary, Industry, Alok Kumar, the resumption of industrial operations will be a slow process as it needs the nod of respective DMs. Operations would be resumed only with 25-50 percent of the total workforce.
As per the industries department, over 5,200 units manufacturing essential items are operational in the state currently. These include 99 units producing sanitizers, 412 units manufacturing medical equipment and medicines and 70 units producing personal protective equipment like masks, PPE kits, gloves, goggles, N- 95 masks, ventilators and other medical products. Over the past few days, 61 drug licences have been issued for manufacture of medical equipment and medicines.