Covid effect: A long road to normalcy for India Inc

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on July 07, 2020 Published on July 06, 2020

From extensive testing to wellness apps, companies are going the extra mile to ensure workers’ safety   -  Sridhar Kavali

Between ensuring employees’ safety and getting production back on the rails, industry has a tough balancing act on its hands

India Inc’s hopes of making a quick come back may hit a roadblock with the rising instances of Covid-19 cases and fatalities at manufacturing facilities.

Are the current safety and hygiene protocols enough as the country walks the knife-edge between tackling Covid-19 and getting the economy back on track?

On the heels of the temporary shut down of Bajaj Auto’s Waluj plant in Aurangabad due to Covid-19 cases and deaths, Toyota Kirloskar Motor on Monday suspended production at its Bidadi plant in Karnataka for a day after one of its employees succumbed to Covid-19.

Toyota said the employee last attended work on June 23 and, hence, as of now there is no clear evidence of transmission within the company from this case or the previously reported eight positive cases at the plant. It has quarantined employees suspected to have had primary or secondary contact with the deceased until June 23.

“ a precautionary measure, TKM has suspended its production for the day at its manufacturing plant in Bidadi and has carried out the required process of disinfecting the workplace as well as deep cleaning of work areas where an infection is detected.”

Operations will resume on Tuesday, post confirming the safety of the workplace.

Similar is the story from JSW’s Vijayanagar plant, also in Karnataka. As of July 3, the plant had 354 confirmed cases with 227 recoveries.

According to a company spokesperson, JSW Steel Vijayanagar Works has gone beyond the standard operating procedure prescribed by the government and tested each and every employee for Covid-19 besides operating with 50 per cent employee strength.

At 64 per cent, the recovery rate at the plant was much higher that the 47 per cent in Ballari district, which had 1,019 cases, it claimed.

The company has formed a governing committee for health management with senior officials, established a 24x7 Corona Corner control room to assist employees and their family members on Covid-19 information, set up within the plant a fever centre with a team of doctors and paramedics to check for early symptoms, and also offers online counselling.

Maruti app

Maruti Suzuki India, has seen 90 cases so far since the reopening of its plants in Gurugram and Manesar in Haryana. However, none was spread from the plants or office premises as all these people got infected in their own localities (containment zones). The company has very strict norms and made it mandatory for all staff to download an inhouse-built ‘Wellness Mitra’ app, which allows only those who have not suffered fever for the last 14 days to enter the office/factory premises.

Sources also said that around 50 per cent of the Covid patients have already recovered and cured.

With employees health a priority, Nestle India said that it is strictly adhering to all safety measures such as temperature screening at both entry and exit, regular sanitisation of workplace, social distancing, mandatory use of masks, and handwash and focus on respiratory hygiene.

But there are companies that are going the extra mile to ensure social-distancing and sanitisation. For instance: Rajkot-based mini-tractor maker Captain Tractors has started giving its workers dosages of tulsi extracts and kaddha (an Ayurvedic decoction) to boost immunity.

“We have constraints to provide boarding facility to our workers. But at the same time we need to run the plant as this is our peak season for tractor sales. So we decided to boost their immunity from the beginning of the lockdown and ensured that they don't catch the infection. On daily basis they are being provided lesson on behavioural aspects in the changed Covid-19 scenario,” Rajesh Patel, Director of Captain Tractors, pioneers of mini tractors informed.

Extended duration

However, large corporates have implemented extended work duration in a single stretch. One of the largest petrochemical players in Gujarat has restricted movement of its plant employees outside the manufacturing site and residences.

It has also made arrangements for the non-plant staff, that is,those at the processing facility, monitoring and R&D units to stay on-site for 45 days, then return home for 30 days.

“After 30 days of home-stay, these employees are asked to undergo a 14-day quarantine before resuming the 45-day work period. This is necessary because we can't control the external movement of our employees,” a company source said.

(With inputs from Rutam V Vora, Suresh P Iyengar, Nandana James, G Balachandar and K Giriprakash)

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Published on July 06, 2020
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