Migrant worker virus exodus plunges India's factories into crisis

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India looks to revive coronavirus-battered economy, but manufacturers say they don't have enough workers to man the machinery

Migrant labourers rest in cement pipes during an extended nationwide lockdown to slow the spreading of coronavirus disease in Lucknow, India, April 22, 2020.

"Sixty percent of our labourers have gone back. How can we run a production unit with just one-third of our workforce?" asked Sanjeev Kharbanda, a senior executive with Aqualite Industries, which owns the footwear factory in the northern state of Haryana. In Gujarat state's Surat city – where 90 percent of the world's diamonds are cut and polished – many factories have been unable to open after more than two-thirds of workers fled, Surat diamond association president Babu Kathiriya said.

There are an estimated 100 million migrant workers – nearly a fifth of the labour force and contributing to an estimated 10 percent of GDP – across the nation of 1.3 billion people. Without public transport after interstate trains and buses were halted, some embarked on long journeys home on foot in the scorching heat, with around 200 dying from exhaustion or accidents according to the non-profit Save Life Foundation.

The government has announced $266 billion stimulus package but observers do not expect much of a boost, at least not in the short term, while there are fears the exodus of migrant workers may have set the economy back by 15 years."Some of them may come back, but many of them will look for work not in metro cities but in small towns close by which are less impacted by the virus."

Source: Financial Digest (financialdigest.net)

 

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