India’s fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies want the government to allow more workers to be deployed in their facilities. We endorse their demand. Output was squeezed during the lockdown, and a shortage leading to a spike in the price of essentials must be avoided. These companies want the cap on worker deployment to be raised to 75% in green and orange zones and 50-60% in red zones (excluding the containment areas) from the current 33%. This is more than valid.
Different types of industries have different kinds of deployment of workers, and how many people can be accommodated while maintaining safety protocols will depend on specific situations of seating and assembly-line positions. The official emphasis must be on companies following physical distancing and sanitary protocols, not on enforcing any uniform cap on capacity utilisation. Give companies flexibility and workers, immunity from penalty for making tenable complaints about violation of protocol at the workplace. Large companies that have good-corporate-citizen branding to protect will follow protocols. These are the ones seeking formal grant of flexibility. Companies that pay only lip service to official norms will not seek any relaxation of norms, they will simply flout them. The government would do well to heed the pleas of companies with honourable intent.
Deploying workers in two shifts, instead of a 12-hour shift with costly overtime payments, makes sense. Workers returning home from duty should not be prevented from entering their homes or asked to vacate the premises. The penchant among, say, some resident welfare association chiefs to behave like little Hitlers and bar the entry of health-workers and others who are out on duty must be nipped in the bud. We have to learn to live with the virus.