Starting Tuesday night, IT city Bengaluru will head for another lockdown for a week. The city that has seen a steady and unabated rise in Covid-19 cases the last four weeks and will be locking down all activities except supply and movement of essential supplies like fruits vegetables and milk, meat and medicines. The decision has not gone down well with the city's industrial sector though, which was just about reviving operations but will have to shut shop for a week once again.
Workers of different hues, different sectors, all of whom are headed right back to their villages or native towns were seen with their luggage at KSRTC bus stand in Bengaluru on Monday. With yet another lockdown in the city starting Tuesday night, the city saw an exodus of workers heading back to the hometowns — either temporarily or for a few months at least — until things settle down and the uncertainty ends.
The State Road Transport Corporation added some 800 buses to its fleet as demand surged. Over 6,000 passengers went by these buses, while many others just took tempos, autos or whatever kind of transport they could find.
"Today we are seeing increase in number of people. Yesterday (Sunday) was complete lockdown, there were no buses. Now we are seeing a lot of people," says Sathish Kumar, traffic controller, KSRTC.
IT employees who have been given the option of working from home have vacated their homes in the city.
"I am going to my hometown Chittoor now. Our company has given work from home till December. So I thought it's not safe to stay here and going back home. I have also vacated my paying guest accommodation here," said Lavanya G, working with a software company.
As Bengaluru with maximum number of over 15,000 active cases shuts down offices, factories, malls and temples for a week, two other districts — Dakshina Kannada and Dharwad which rank second and third in the number of Covid patients — will do the same. The state that was averse to a lockdown for all of last month has realised that there is no other option, considering that hospitals are jam-packed.
But not everyone thinks it will really help. The Federation of Karnataka industries, for instance, feels that a week's lockdown will achieve nothing in controlling the pandemic and will, in fact, hit almost all sectors of the economy adversely.
"The Chief Minister himself assured there won't be lockdown. Even after lockdown, positive cases might not come down. Workers may go back and may not return at all. They won't get salary, hotel industry won't support it. It is going to be suicidal for industry and workers,” said CR Janardhana, president, FKCCI.
"20% of industries have already closed down. Another 20% will close down. Nearly 6.5 lakh industries are there in the state. Weavers, readymade garment employees will all suffer. Committed jobs will result in huge loss. We may not regain workers also. Investments had also started coming in because of assurance from government," he added.
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It is the small and medium enterprises that will suffer the most as they are process-based and they need continuous operation. A week's stop to operations may have a ripple effect for another three to four weeks yet again. But this is one exemption that the government is not considering, now that a decision has been taken on re-imposing a complete lockdown except for supply of essential goods.
The success of whether it stops the spread of the virus, of course, will be known after a week.