M A I N   N E W S

No workforce, Ludhiana in lurch
Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
What years of militancy and global meltdown failed to do, the regional divide has done it. The production in the industrial capital of Punjab — Ludhiana — has come to a grinding halt. Thanks to the recent caste and regional tension, the migrant workforce is leaving the city in droves, plunging it into worst-ever industrial crisis, with the production dipping in most of the units by almost 30 per cent.

The labour, on whose shoulders stand the success of industrialisation, is in extreme short supply. Post-December violence and labour unrest, each industrial unit is facing 30- 35 per cent shortage of workers. Not just the export orders, but also the orders to the OEMs are getting delayed because of the crunch.

In the Focal Point here — which was the epicentre of tension — there’s only one morning shift now — earlier there used to two or at times even three shifts--- as the workers are not willing to stay out after dark. Elsewhere in the industrial area, posters announcing vacancies for labour jobs have been pasted outside almost every unit.

In fact, the situation is so grave that many units have been forced to close down certain specialised sections. Sanjeev Ralhan, production director, Sri Tools Industries, said a lot of units have been forced to shut down their zinc-bleeding sections in absence of workers. “My unit is short of 90 persons,” he admitted. According to estimates, Ludhiana is short of around four lakh labourers.

Industrialists say the skilled labour is available, but the unskilled labour, which is required for the odd jobs is not there. Since the skilled labour is highly paid here (sometimes as high as Rs 10,000 - Rs 12,000 per month), they are not moving out of the city. “The inflow of unskilled labour has been hit by the employment guarantee schemes like the NREGA. However, the recent labour unrest has spelled doom for us. We are now turning to agents who can supply us the unskilled workforce. As against the minimum wages of Rs 3,400 per month, we are ready to pay anything between Rs 4,000 and 4,500 in order to get workers,” said TN Sood, managing director, Kumar Industries.

Interestingly, the labour shortage has led to a competition within the industry here. The units are trying to outdo each other in wooing the labourers, who are being promised higher wages, free accommodation and transportation facilities. If one unit takes out a notice for a labour job at a salary of Rs 4,000 a month, the other is offering Rs 4,500 per month for a similar job. Some of the big units are even building pucca tenements for their migrant employees, with all the basic facilities. Special vehicles will also be commissioned just to ferry these men to work and back. There’s need to woo them back as one cannot survive the competition without them, feel a majority of the industrialists here. 



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