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Karnataka stares at another labour crisis amid surge in Covid cases | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: Industries in and around Bengaluru are witnessing a second round of exodus of migrant workers amid a massive surge in Covid cases. Construction industry, MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) and the domestic workers’ sector are once again headed towards a severe labour shortage.
Multiple factors have triggered the latest exodus, a crucial one being the assembly elections in four states and one UT — West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Most of the labourers went to their home-states to vote and are now reluctant to return to Karnataka, fearing possible restrictions in the wake of spike in Covid cases. While some went home for the harvest season, others are heading to their native places for the upcoming New Year festivities in states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
After the great exodus witnessed during last year’s lockdown, migrant labourers from other states started returning since October; about 50 % of some 30 lakh workers, who had left Karnataka, came back by February-end. Now, according to observers, they are once again exiting the state. An estimated eight lakh people have already gone back and many more are likely to follow.
“Most of the workers want to come back after the April 13 New Year festival. But with the changing Covid scenario in Karnataka, they also want to watch how things pans out. Last year, they had a bad experience, stuck in the city during lockdown without employment. They don’t want to land in a similar situation this time,” said K Mahantesh, national secretary of Construction Workers Federation of India. However, this has left the industrial sector in the lurch and the government is planning to step in with measures to help both workers and employers.
“I would like to assure the labourers that there is a lot of difference between the situation last year and the current condition. The government does not favour extreme curbs such as lockdown. Let them enjoy the festival and happily return to Karnataka. We will take care of their safety,” said labour minister A Shivaram Hebbar.
Hebbar said the government is setting up transit homes and shelters for labourers in all districts and that migrant workers will be accommodated with all amenities in case they need help. Meanwhile, local labour supply in the state has also been hit due to the public transport employees’ strike and most MSME units are struggling to function.
“The units are running on less than 50% workforce and the development is deterring the recovery of the industrial sector,” said Krishnappa BP, president of Hoskote Industrial Area Welfare Association.
The labour shortage comes amid rising input costs of cement and steel, a double whammy for the construction sector. Suresh Hari, chairman of CREDAI- Bengaluru, said productivity has drastically dipped.

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