Indrajeet Kapoor Tony of the Ludhiana Industrial and Traders Joint Action Committee believes that the COVID-19 lockdown have pushed the industries in Ludhiana back by at least thirty years. He says according to a rough estimate, industries in Punjab have suffered a loss of Rs 50,000 crores till date due to the lockdown. The loss will increase in the coming times as the lockdown has been extended again.
Though the government has announced a partial/conditional movement and reopening of business, Tony thinks that this will not help the industries because most of the workers who come from UP and Bihar have fled the city. “They are very unlikely to come back soon. How can industry resume functioning?” Tony asked.
Moreover, local workers lack the required skills to work in these industries, which is adding to the problem. Though the nationwide lockdown had an adverse impact on industries all over the country, it caused more damage in Punjab because according to Tony, the state was already suffering from the fallout of the abrogation of Article 370.
Due to long spells of curfews, heightened vigilance and ban on movement, following abrogation of the Article 370, hosiery industry in Ludhiana had suffered a huge loss. Revocation of business with Pakistan also caused a huge loss, said Tony.
The scale of the destruction can be understood by the fact that Ludhiana, which was a hub of the import-export business, is completely shut. “We have not placed an order for the raw material that we used to import from China and Japan. What purpose is this opening up exercise going to serve? Where will we get the raw material from?”
Tony wondered. He said that almost 60 percent of the products manufactured in the cycle and hosiery industry was exported. Now, due to the lockdown, both import and export is shut. Products cannot be transported even within India due to the lockdown. “We have not seen a situation worse than this in generations,” he says. Tony thinks PM Modi should formulate a new policy to save industries.
He should announce a special package. This is also a good time to announce a waiver of GST, pointed out Tony. “Flawed GST has caused irrevocable damage to our businesses. Usually, policies related to industries and businesses are formulated by the Center but we do not see the Modi government doing anything in this regard,” he said.
“If the situation remains unchanged for a long time, industries in Ludhiana will be destroyed. We will go at least one hundred years back. Businessmen, industrialists, and representatives of business bodies had sought time from the PMO, but we have not received even an acknowledgment,” Tony adds.
“CM Amarinder Singh is doing his best to support us, though he has his own limitations as being the state CM of a state, he cannot take policy related decisions beyond a point,” he says. Ludhiana, often called ‘India’s Manchester’, will be saved only if Modi government announces special packages and takes specific measures.
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