Migrant Exodus amid COVID-19: Lack of workforce hits steel industry in Maharashtra’s Bhayandar

With scores of migrant workers returning to their hometowns amid the nationwide lockdown that was imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, a massive shortage of manpower has gripped the industrial areas of the twin-city, which reopened after a gap of almost three months.

The worst affected are the hundreds of steel utensil manufacturing units in Bhayandar – which is considered to be one of the biggest steel hubs in the country.

The steel industry has provided employment opportunities to around 50,000 skilled and unskilled workers, mostly migrants hailing from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. However, as per rough estimates provided by local trade unions, nearly 60% to 70% of the labour force employed in the twin-city have now left for their hometowns, creating a huge void for almost all manufacturing and buffing units.

Migrant Exodus amid COVID-19: Lack of workforce hits steel industry in Maharashtra’s Bhayandar

“Still fearing infection due to the alarming rise in the number of cases in the city, most of them are reluctant to return. Instead, they prefer to stay in their villages and engage themselves in farming or other odd-jobs to earn a living till normalcy returns. Left with no other option, we have started our factory with a skeletal workforce,” said Ram Bahadur Yadav who runs a small-scale unit in MI Udyog Nagar.

Some migrants fear that the lockdown will be imposed again and they will once again be stranded with no means to earn their livelihood.

The industry mainly comprises more than 2,000 buffing units which caters to the polishing needs of the steel utensil manufacturers and export houses in the region. The workforce operates on a per piece-rate system, the remunerations of which are based on the number of units processed on a daily basis.

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