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Migrants are assets: Assam CM Sonowal

Dispur is expecting over 10,000 returnees in a week

By A Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 16.05.20, 1:21 AM
  • Updated 16.05.20, 1:21 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Rs 20 lakh crore package would help over one lakh MSME units, including around 20,000 ailing industries of Assam. Picture by UB Photos

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday said he had asked the state industry department to engage the migrant workers returning home because of the Covid-19-induced lockdown in various sectors. Industry leaders, however, said local industries and enterprises would be able to “at best absorb only 25 per cent” of the returnees.

Sonowal said the home-bound migrant workers were “assets and not a liability” and that they would be considered as a “skilled” force. “I have already instructed the industry minister (Chandra Mohan Patowary) to train them so that they can be absorbed in various sectors. We will develop the industry sector based on the recommendations of the economic advisory committee led by Subhash Das (a retired bureaucrat),” he said.

Sonowal said the actual number of the migrant workers would become clear only when the stranded return home. “When the state government had announced a helpline, about 6.5 lakh people had contacted us from different parts of the country. But many of them were pilgrims, students and patients. We will get the actual number only when the stranded return and will prepare a future master plan accordingly,” he said.

Dispur is expecting over 10,000 returnees in a week. So far, nearly 2,000 people have returned in a special Delhi-Dibrugarh train and a Mizoram-bound train from Chennai.

The Federation of Industry & Commerce of North Eastern Region (Finer), a leading industry body of the region, said industrial units and allied enterprises can at best absorb 25 per cent of the returning workforce and urged Dispur and other northeastern states to initiate immediate steps to build capacity for meaningful employment of the rest.

Finer president Pabitra Buragohain said the government has to turn this unfolding challenge into an opportunity by engaging the local workforce. “So far all states, including Assam, have been mainly offering land and power to attract investment but now we should also project our workforce as an asset. A significant number of those returning will be skilled. If land, power and skilled workforce are offered at a reasonable rate to potential investors/companies looking to shift base, it may tempt them. We need to promptly get into capacity-building and turn this crisis into an opportunity,” he said.

Dispur has said that it is hoping that American, Japanese and Korean companies contemplating moving out of Covid-hit China would consider Assam as an investment destination and that it is preparing towards that end.

Sonowal also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Rs 20 lakh crore package would help over one lakh MSME units, including around 20,000 ailing industries of Assam.

The state’s industry sector contributes about 39 per cent to the state’s GDP but has taken a huge hit because of the lockdown which has also seen Dispur’s revenue generation dip by about 20 per cent.

Additional reporting by our special correspondent