Owners of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) said they have been financially hit by the restrictions imposed by the government even though their workforce is vaccinated against COVID-19 and their workers have become unemployed, so they have urged the government to allow them to operate with certain conditions.
Industry owners said the government has done little to help them during these harsh circumstances and has imposed restrictions without looking at the MSMEs from their perspective.
On one hand, industry owners fear that labourers would leave for their villages. They also face a challenge in paying salaries, electricity and water bills, rents while the production and hence income is lower than usual.
On the other hand, labourers are forced to roam around looking for work. Most of them will have to leave their respective workplaces and head back to their homes in case COVID-19 cases increase and restrictions get harsher.
Dr Anil Gupta, Chairman, Jhilmil Friends Colony Industrial area body told ANI, "There are 3,000 MSMEs in our area and at least one lakh workers in Delhi. We show 100 per cent compliance with COVID-19 norms and our entire workforce is fully vaccinated. There are no crowds either. But still, we are always the first who are told to shut down our work by the government."
Gupta said that MSMEs pay Rs 1 crore in taxes daily, adding that the MSMEs face a 'triple attack': COVID-19 restrictions has left people without employment, consumers are worried and owners face difficulties in paying salaries to labourers, bills and rents.
"Permanent labourers are our responsibility no matter what. But casuals are dependent on our factories. We fear that they will leave for their villages if factories do not open. Government should think about us. We are not a very big industry," he added.
Vinit Jain, the General Secretary of the Jhilmil Friends Colony Industrial area body told ANI, "We are yet to get out of the difficulties faced during the first two lockdowns. Even this curfew is like a lockdown to us. 100 per cent of our labour is fully vaccinated. We follow COVID-19 protocols while working. Our work does not involve any public dealing. Restrictions on industries are beyond my understanding."
Another industrialist named Deeparam Chaudhary said, "Employment is finished. We cannot even manage our expenses. We are not exempted from any bills, rents. Our backs are broken. Government policies are not right."
Labourers in the area have been struggling to get work for the last 5-10 days. Forced to roam around for a source of employment, some of them are considering heading back to their villages in case of harsher restrictions.
A labourer said to ANI, "We are not able to find work. We are struggling with hunger and everything is shut down. I have been roaming here since morning for work." Another labourer, Sachin said, "We roam around for work so that we get two meals a day. We live in a rented room. There is no work going on here. We have to go to gurudwaras and mosques for our food. In the first lockdown, government was at least providing some aid to us. But this time, I will have to go back to my village in Prayagraj and do agricultural work."
Sajjan, another labourer, echoes the sentiment of his fellow labourers. He too is not hopeful of work resuming anytime soon. The situation is not different in the Okhla industrial area either. In adherence to COVID-19 protocols, industrial units here are also closed during the night and the weekends, causing a struggle for both the owners and labourers.
Charanjit Singh, General Secretary, Okhla Industrial area told ANI about the struggles of the MSME industry, both from an owner and labourers' standpoint and suggested that the government allow them to function at 50 per cent capacity.
"There are 180 units here. 120 of them work in night duty. There are problems for labourers. If they go back to villages, they do not return. They also face struggles while travelling to their workplaces since they do not have personal vehicles and capacity in public transport has been reduced too. We have faced loss of Rs five crore in two days. We are taking precautions right now such as sanitising our complex and toilets, restricting the entry of visitors. We are doing everything possible at our level. My suggestion to government is that we should be allowed to work at 50 per cent capacity. Had this been allowed, we would have suffered less," he said.
In view of rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, a night curfew was imposed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led government in the national capital from December 27.
Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the national capital, the DDMA has also imposed a curfew in Delhi on Saturdays and Sundays to curb the spread of infection.
All government officials except for those engaged in essential services will work from home. 50 per cent workforce of private offices will work from home.
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