Canindia News

TN industries not in hurry to bring back migrant workers (Return of the Exodus-III)

Chennai, June 6 (IANS) The major industries employing migrant labourers in Tamil Nadu are not in a hurry to bring them and are adopting a wait and watch approach, said the industry players.

Even a real estate player, who initially thought of flying a group of migrant workers to a site, later shelved that plan and is waiting for the resumption of regular train services.

On the other hand, the President of Tiruppur Exporters Association (TEA), Raja M Shanmugham, told IANS that the loss is for the migrant workers.

Shanmugham also said that the migrant workers will come back owing to reasons like better wage and also because of the absence of ‘caste stigma’ while working in Tamil Nadu.

Over one lakh migrant workers from Chennai alone have been sent back home through the Shramik Special trains.

Nevertheless, some real estate players are exploring the possibilities of bringing back the migrant workers by trains.

“We are exploring the possibilities of bringing back the workers. Discussions are on with the contractors. Once the lockdown norms are relaxed further, workers will come back,” S. Sridharan, Director, Newry Properties Private Ltd, told IANS.

“We also mulled flying down some skilled workers here, but later changed that plan,” he added.

According to the industry players, works in some sites are being carried out with the workers who have not gone back.

“In some sites, the construction work is on and at the sites where we have not started the work, they have been put on hold,” Ajit Chordia, Managing Director, Olympia Technology Park, told IANS.

The industry players were of the view that the projects may suffer a delay of six months and only in October the industry will have a fair idea of the actual situation.

“Even then the challenge will be how many workers will turn coronavirus positive and what happens when a worker turns positive,” Chordia said.

On wooing the migrant workers back, Chordia said: “Only specialised skilled workers can be flown down to complete a work. Otherwise, train service is the best way to bring back construction workers in large numbers.”

“Migrants are from different states and villages. They are brought here by contractors and sub-contractors. We don’t know where they hail from,” R. Kumar, Chairman and Managing Director, Navin’s Group, said.

Agreeing that there will be delay in the projects and increased interest costs, Kumar said it is the same for the industry as a whole.

However, the sudden migrant workers’ outflow has exposed the risk factor for several industries, be in real estate, hosiery or manufacturing.

According to Chordia, the construction industry will now look at adopting newer technologies that are less labour intensive.

“The industry may adopt prefab, Mivan or form work technology,” Chordia said.

“Adoption of newer technology will be based on economics. In the case of Mivan, the labour cost will go down but the material cost will go up,” Kumar of Navin’s Group said.

“As regards new technology, one has to see the cost. The industry will look at them once the issue settles down,” Sridharan added.

The real estate players do not expect prices to come down.

“We can’t afford to bring down the selling price. Input costs like cement and steel have gone up. On the trend in land price, it will take time to see what will happen,” Sridharan, who is also the Chairman, Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), TN Chapter, said.

On the other hand, Shanmugham, President, Tiruppur Exporters Association, and a partner in Warsaw International, said the hosiery units are not majorly hit by the migrant workers going away.

He also said the coronavirus spread in the Western countries impacted the shipments and the industry’s revival may not happen soon.

“Ours is a business based on various seasons. The shipment of summer season garments was affected due to the lockdown in the overseas market. The overseas buyers want us to ship the garments in next summer,” Shanmugham said.

Normally, June, July and August are lean seasons for the hosiery industry in Tiruppur.

He said last year the industry targeted a turnover of about Rs 60,000 crore — equally divided between domestic and overseas markets. However, the industry would have exported about Rs 25,000 crore worth of goods and the domestic business would have been around Rs 22,000 crore.

Owing to the China factor in the Covid-19 issue, Shanmugham said there are more enquiries from overseas.

The coronavirus has brought in new products for the industry like the face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). Some foreign garment brands have approached the industry to make masks that will go along with the garments, he said.

Industries are managing with the migrant workers who are remaining here and also the local labourers.

According to Chordia, the outflow of migrant workers has shown their importance.

“They will get a lot more respect now than what they got previously. The state government is also thinking of building rental residential accommodation for the migrant workers,” he said.



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