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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: The city of Surat in Gujarat, considered as the textile hub of India is gradually reopening even as Covid-19 outbreak continues its uptrend already claiming more than 3700 lives across the country.

After nearly two months of losing jobs following the enforcement of the nationwide lockdown in view of the Covid outbreak, the reopening of the city has now reignited hopes for lakhs of Odia people who used to depend on the scores of textile mills to earn their livelihood.

As per information, around 50 textile units out of the 1000 units operating under Anjali Industrial Estate in Surat have now resumed their operations. The textile mills federation in the city has assured that after getting a green signal from the government, more units will resume their operations.

Bijay Mangukia, the chief of textile traders association said the reopening of the factories has brought a new lease of life for the worker community which has been badly battered by the Covid outbreak and the lockdown.

However, lakhs of labourers who have returned from Surat to Odisha amid the Corona crisis could make it difficult for a full reopening. The families of migrant labourers who have come back to Odisha are also showing unwillingness to allow them to return to Surat apprehending more such crisis.

As per the district administration of Ganjam, one of the most migration-prone districts in Odisha, so far around 70,000 people have returned to the district and most of them are Surat returnees. It seems weeks of hardship have instilled fear & paranoia making them skeptical about returning and once again restarting their life's journey in the Silk City of the country.

Sridhar Mohanty, a Surat returnee said, "We fear that such crisis may hit back once again so we don't want to risk our lives by going back to Surat again. If Odisha government can provide us the opportunity to work, we will be grateful."

The situation has now posed serious questions about the fate of labourers who have returned. Furthermore, it remains to be seen how far Odisha is able to provide jobs to lakhs of homecoming migrants.

Another problem that continues to rear its ugly head even though it matters more to Gujarat, is that after losing its bulk of human resources due to lockdown, will the textile industry in Surat be the same again.

On the other hand, many Odias who have remained in Surat hoping to weather the crisis have now heaved a sigh of relief and are willing to stay back.

Chintamani, an Odia worker engaged at a textile mill said we are extremely happy to see that finally we can get down to work after weeks of hardship.


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