By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, April 14 (IANS) Amid an exodus of migrant workers to their respective hometowns across the country during the nationwide lockdown in India, manufacturers of savoury ‘bhujia, ‘papads and ‘rasgullas in Bikaner have set an example for others to follow.
Around 500 units involved in the manufacture of world-famous ‘Bikaner bhujia’, popadom and the Bengali sweetmeat in the Rajasthan town have not only housed their respective workers on factory premises but also taken care of their food and other requirements for the past 21 days.
Consequently, there has been virtually no reverse migration from among over one lakh labourers from the industrial town.
“Most of the labourers in these units are from Haryana, Bihar, Bengal, Odisha and even southern states. They have been staying there like close-knit family for the last many generations. In fact, arranging food for them has been going on since generations. It’s a custom we have been religiously following,” said Makhan Agarwal, General Secretary of Bikaneri Papad Bhujia Food Processing Industries Association.
He told IANS that even during the nationwide lockdown, the manufacturers had not deducted money from the salaries of their workers. “They rest assured that they are staying in a family and thus have no reason to go back to their native places,” he added.
The process of making ‘papads’ and ‘bhujia’ involved manual labour in the past, but over the years machines have replaced human involvement. However, there is still a need for more workers to handle expanded supply chains too.
“So we have retained our staff for many years. Even the new staff is hired on the basis of old references. So, it’s a kind of an extended family with strong ties since ages,” Agarwal remarked.
He pointed out that the relations between the owners and their workforce span generations. “It is this close connection that you can feel in the taste of savouries made in Bikaner, which has remained unchanged for decades,” he added.
Kamal Kalla, secretary of Bikaner Foundation, said that all entrepreneurs in the town were its members. “All of them have made all kinds of arrangements for their workers, and none has been made to leave. On behalf of the foundation, we are also helping the needy by handing out ration kits.”
Meanwhile, he said, Bikaner entrepreneurs were eagerly awaiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address on Tuesday and said they wanted relaxations in lockdown restrictions to enable women make ‘papads’ at their houses after sanitising their surroundings and putting face masks.
Also, those delivering the manufactured ‘papads’ and ‘bhujia’ could deliver the same to the sales outlets and earn some money in the process, he added.
Kalla pointed out that the units manufacturing ‘rasgullas’ should also be allowed to resume operations since milk suppliers of Bikaner area were at present not able to sell their daily yield to the manufacturing units.
“All the milk is presently going to the dairies, but they do not have the capacity to handle this much quantity. Hence, milk is going waste,” he added.
(Archana Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])