Besides those from Bihar, a large number of migrant workers are from states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Gujarat is producing nearly 30% of cotton and 56% Denim of the country’s total production.
Surat, one of the biggest textile centres in the country, is facing shortage of workers due to the Bihar assembly polls and subsequent Chhath Puja festivities.
With annual turnover of almost Rs 80,000 crore, the textile industry in and around Surat provides employment to 20 lakh people. Of the total workforce in the textile value chain in Surat, more than five lakh workers are from the poll-bound state. Besides those from Bihar, a large number of migrant workers are from states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Sources in the textile industry said a large chunk of migrant labourers went to their native places in April and May during the lockdown. Only 15 to 20 workers have returned to work, said Dev Kishan Mangani, advisor to the textile committee of the South Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Though the textile industry is not functioning at the pre-lockdown level, the industry is gradually getting back to normal due to fresh demand due to the Diwali festivities, Mangani said. “Textile mills, weavers, processors, garment manufacturers and textile traders have again started employing people to fulfil new orders. Workers from Bihar are not only skilled in textile-related jobs, but are also hardworking. Hence, it is difficult to replace Bihari workers with labourers from other states,” he said.
He said most migrant labourers didn’t return to Gujarat due to kharif sowing and other agricultural work. Now the assembly elections have been announced in Bihar, which will be followed by Chhath Puja. Generally, ahead of Diwali, workers from Bihar go home for the celebrations.
Currently, most of the Surat-based textile mills are being operated 12 hours a day instead of 24×7 due to scarcity of skilled labourers, said Manoj Agarwal, president of the Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association.
He said thousands of power looms are also functioning at 40 to 50% capacity due to shortage of workers. Those who have returned to work also wish to go back to Bihar for the festivities.