The apparel industry is repeatedly asking the Government to allow start operations, but will the industry be able to start production, especially looking at the new guidelines issued by the Government?
The new guidelines of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have stated many conditions to ensure the safety of workers from COVID-19 covering social distancing, mandatory use of masks, disinfection of space, etc. Notably, medical insurance of workers will also be mandatory, which is rare in the Indian apparel industry.
The factories having facilities like buses to pick and drop, hostels or dormitories for their workers do have an edge in this regard and they will be not facing many difficulties to operate; however, the majority of factories across the country do not have such facilities.
In the majority of apparel manufacturing hubs, workers don’t live very near to factories and therefore need public transport to reach the factories.
Vivek Lakra, Director, Superfine Knitters, Ludhiana is of the view that not even 5 per cent factories of India are able to operate in these guidelines and prevailed conditions. He said “Even after lockdown, we need thermometers in large numbers and there is no availability of the same. Similarly, be it stuff for disinfection or allied things, there is a scarcity of the same in the market. So, I feel that even after lockdown, getting back to working as it used to be earlier, will take much time and it will be crisis management every day.”
Pawan Arya, VP, Operations, Orient Craft, Noida has a slightly different perspective on the same and shares, “There are two things. As far as social distancing is concerned, one can plan to start a factory with 40 per cent of capacity and start working. Secondly, Government is also pressurising to keep workers inside the premises and arrange for their boarding and lodging inside the premises. Even if factory management thinks over that option too, very few workers will agree to work under these conditions.”
Swaran Singh, a known consultant in the apparel industry who is also running a unit in Noida, says that he is utilising the space of the factory for the workers so that they can stay there only.
As far as the issue of medical insurance of workers is related, Raja Shanmugham, President of Tirupur Exporters Association (TEA) is of the opinion that ESI facility is there. “Looking at the current situation as there is very less or nominal business, a factory can manage this work with even 20 per cent capacities so with extra efforts they have to manage working.”