Many of the guest workers from north India are apprehensive to go back unlike last year as they believe that they could overcome the pandemic by staying put in the workplace, rather than fighting the mighty menace of poverty in their native villages.
“I came back to Tirupur just four months ago expecting better times after the pandemic came under control. But, the surging second wave of infection has come as a jolt to all of us. Yet, a large group of us have decided to stay back and overcome the crisis. Also, going back to our hometowns is not a better option as we may have to suffer without any jobs and money to make ends meet,” said S Rakesh Kumar, a textile worker hailing from Odisha.
The lockdown enforced, following the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year triggered mass exodus of migrant workers from Tirupur. Their memories are still afresh with travails encountered during the arduous journey by walk and cycling to their hometowns following the lockdown.
“Then, it was a whole new experience as we were panicked over a new virus and tougher curbs on transportation kindled our desire to see the family members. But this time around, we are confident of overcoming the situation by staying back to continue with our work,” said another worker.
Even though the workers have decided to stay put, the rumour mills doing around on the possibility of a complete lockdown and ‘panicking’ curbs have been driving the guest workers, albeit in small numbers to their native places by trains.
In order to make them stay back to avoid labour shortage, the industrial units have been sensitizing their workers not to believe in rumours and have also taken up measures to build their confidence by organising vaccination drives.
Also, the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) has urged the Centre to avoid stringent lockdowns to save the MSME and textile sector, which are recovering from the impact of the last COVID-19 outbreak.
“As the situation reached normalcy, more orders started to pour in for export garment manufacturing units in Tirupur. Hence, the textile units are ready to adhere to any stringent protocol to avoid a lockdown. The textile industry should be recognised as essential services and allow continuous functioning of the units,” said A Sakthivel, chairman of AEPC in a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Textiles Minister Smriti Irani and Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal.