With diamond units closed in Surat in view of the COVID-19 outbreak, a number of workers employed in these units are leaving the Gujarat city every day as they are now left with no source of income, those associated with the business claimed. Surat Diamond Workers Union president Jaysukh Gajera said they fear 70 per cent of the workers who are leaving the city may never come back. Over six lakh people are employed in more than 9,000 diamond cutting and polishing units here which remained shut from March-end till the first week of June.
But, since the business activities resumed in the second week of June, over 600 workers and their families have tested positive for coronavirus so far.
As a precautionary measure, the Surat Municipal Corporation earlier this week ordered the diamond polishing units to remain closed till July 13.
Surat Luxury Bus Operators Association president Dinesh Andhan claimed that on an average, 300 buses carrying nearly 6,000 people, mostly diamond industry workers, leave from Surat every day for Saurashtra and north Gujarat, from where these workers had come here in search of work.
"While nearly 6,000 workers are leaving the city in luxury buses, some 4,000 are leaving in cars, trucks and other vehicles every day. Many are leaving with their belongings. Bus operators are not charging them for their luggage and belongings being accommodated on top of the buses," he said.
When contacted, Surat Municipal Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani said they don't have the figures of those leaving the city.
However, Andhan said they are witnessing a greater rush of people leaving the city now than what it used to be during the Diwali vacations.
As the diamond polishing units are now shut, the workers who were living in rented houses are unable to sustain their livelihood, Gajera said.
"They have been jobless for almost four months and there is little hope the situation will improve in the near future. Nearly 1,500 families are leaving for their native places in mini-trucks every day with their belongings," he claimed.
"This is unprecedented. We believe 70 per cent workers who are leaving with their belongings may never come back. Even if they do, they will not return with their families," he added.
(With PTI inputs)