With tens of thousands of migrant workers in the area having returned to their hometowns amid the nationwide lockdown, industries in the twin cities are reeling under a massive shortage of manpower, having reopened after almost three months.
Worst-affected are the hundreds of steel utensil manufacturing units in Bhayandar - considered one of the biggest steel hubs across the country.
The steel industry provided employment opportunities to around 50,000 skilled and unskilled workers -mostly migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. As per rough estimates provided by local trade unions, nearly 60% to 70% of the labour force employed in the twin-cities is gone, creating a void in almost all manufacturing and buffing units.
“Still fearing infection due to the alarming rise in the number of cases in the city, most of them are reluctant to return and would rather stay back in villages and engage in farming or other odd-jobs for 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 re-imposed and once again, they will be stranded. The industry mainly comprises more than 2,000 buffing units, which cater to the polishing needs of the steel utensil manufacturing and export houses in the region. The workforce operates on a per piece-rate system, meaning the remuneration is based on the number of units processed daily.