Nima | Sarpang

The relaxation of lockdown has helped manufacturing units and industries in Sarpang bring in raw materials, but the firms are facing a shortage of hands to continue business.

Most manufacturing units and start-ups in the dzongkhag depend on the manpower and technical expertise from neighbouring Assam and West Bengal where the Covid-19 pandemic is not showing any respite.

There are about 50 foreign workers in the town engaged in loading and unloading essential goods in the town, according to an official from Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industry (BCCI) in Gelephu.

Only a few workers have stayed back and most units are sustained through the limited manpower available today.

One of the oldest enterprises in Gelephu, Gyaltshen Wood Industries is today running half its capacity. Production has decreased almost by half. There are only 20 workers.

Manager, Gopilal Alley said the company could not employ local labourers. “They work for a few days and leave. The workers from border towns are more reliable. They work for years,” he said.

The company couldn’t get additional workforce after its workers couldn’t return after the border lockdown. West Bengal has extended the lockdown since yesterday.

“We export 60 percent of our products to India but the situation in our main market like Guwahati, Assam, is not improving,” said Gopilal Allay. Today, the industry engages office staff in physical works often. The company has reduced its investment on raw materials.

BCCI’s regional secretary  Kelzang said manufacturing units depend on workforce from nearby border town of Dathgari. “They couldn’t come in after the lockdown and some units are almost closing down,” he said.

Oms manufacturing unit in Chokorling was on halt for over five months after the unit suffered major mechanical failure.  The firm produced over a hundred dozens of socks and stockings in a month before the breakdown.

Owner of the unit, Puran Rai said hiring technicians was difficult after the lockdown. He will have to spend over Nu 50,000 to call a technician from India during the lockdown.

Company officials said it wouldn’t be productive to hire skilled labours during lockdown because they will have to undergo required health protocols. “We will have to pay them wages while in quarantine and also the quarantine charges,” said Gopilal Alley.

However, companies not dependent on skilled labourers from abroad are less affected because those firms could import required raw materials while the lockdown was eased.