Labour Scarcity Hits Guwahati Hard, Paralyses Industries Across Assam
Industries of Assam are mostly dependent on migrant labour. With scarcity of labourers being reported across India, the industries in Assam are facing the same shortage leading to their paralysis with and urban areas of the state facing the brunt. Even the labourers stuck in different districts of Assam are facing problems in returning to their work.
PK Sharma, president of Assam Real Estate and Infrastructure Developers’ Association (AREIDA) talking to G Plus said, “There is a huge scarcity of labourers in the real estate industry of Assam.” He also revealed that the shortage will continue for some days. He explained that most of the labourers working in the real estate industry are migrants and because they have gone back before the Lockdown 1.0 or after Lockdown 2.0, their unavailability is affecting construction work.
City-based architect, Ranel Kumar Das, also expressed the same concerns even as he clarified that there are skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labourers. Depending on the kind of work at hand, labourers are brought in. He said that in the city there are mostly Bangladeshi labourers or labourers from lower Assam involved in construction work like piling. Talking about carpentry, most of the labourers are from Bengal, he said. Similarly, the labourers in other industries like livestock, cement etc are mostly from Bangladesh.
Government construction work has been affected as well. A senior engineer in Public Works Department, talking to G Plus under condition of anonymity said, “The target estimated date of completion of projects has had to be changed for many projects looking at the present scenario as all the contractors associated with PWD are complaining about labour scarcity.” There are many ongoing projects in Guwahati and Assam and all have been affected.
There are also allegations that the government has not done much to bring back the stranded labourers.
Millions of India’s migrant labourers say they are in limbo, struggling to access aid to survive the six-week lockdown in the states where they work and appealing for help from officials back home.
Many labourers in Guwahati, originally from Bihar, are thronging the various police stations in the city to acquire their turn to return home. Kamlesh Bhagat, an electrical labourer from Bihar, talking to G Plus said, “I am stuck in Guwahati since the lockdown started. My family is in Bihar and I want to return home. I have given my name at Fatasil Ambari police station a week back and till now have not got any response from the police station.” He is also not working now as he is not getting any work since the contractors he was working with are not taking any new assignments for the fear of not being able to deliver the same on time.
A livestock department official talking to G Plus expressed that even in home delivery of livestock products by the government they are facing hurdles in delivering on time because of less labourers. Many labourers are also not allowed by their kin to take new assignments as they are scared of contracting the dreaded disease.
PK Sharma said that they have approached the state government for revival of the real estate industry and in a letter the association has proposed many suggestions to the government.
According to media reports more than 4.30 lakh migrant workers from Assam are still stranded in many states of the country due to the nationwide lockdown. Among the migrant workers, over 66,000 workers from Assam are stranded in Karnataka, 34,000 in Kerala, 33,000 in Tamil Nadu, 21,000 in Maharashtra, 16,000 in Telangana, 5,600 in Gujarat, 4,600 in Goa and 4,500 in West Bengal.
Talking about Guwahati, there are no exact figures but industry experts expressed that around 70% labourers are in different district and states which makes the city most affected.
Even the essential commodities sector is facing tough times. An official of FCI said that unloading of essential commodities has become very expensive as there are lesser labourers and whatever labourers are available, they are charging double.
With the Centre announcing various schemes for all sections, the chorus for reforming labour laws is growing louder.