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COVID-19 lockdown affects pharma production in Uttarakhand as companies report low attendance

The DMAU has sought clarification on the government's earlier issued order that all employees will be paid full salaries during the lockdown period irrespective of their attendance

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The Drug Manufacturers Association Uttarakhand (DMAU) has written a letter to the State Health Secretary informing the low production in the state due to less attendance of the workforce, because of nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The association seeks clarification on the government’s earlier issued order, to give full salaries during the lockdown period, irrespective of the employees’ attendance.

The DMAU, on behalf of the industry, has requested the government to issue a clarification on its earlier issued order that all employees be paid full salaries during the lockdown period, irrespective of their attendance. The association requests the authorities to issue a clarification that this order and clause is not applicable to those industries and establishments who are exempted from the lockdown.

Since the time PM Modi announced 21 days nationwide lockdown, pharma units in the state are observing low attendance of their workforce, which is likely to affect the production and may create a shortage of drugs in the market.

Sanjay Kumar Sikaria, Secretary, Drug Manufacturers Association – Uttarakhand said, “Nearly, 70-80 per cent of the total workforce of all pharma companies from the state of different departments is not coming to its respective companies. This could either be due to the fear of coronavirus or could be the government’s order that all employees will be paid full salaries during the lockdown period – irrespective of their attendance – which is creating a strong disincentive for attendance.”

He also mentioned that the industry is facing this problem despite the government’s repetitive instructions and orders stating that such restrictions have not been imposed on workers of pharma companies.

DC Jain, Chairman, Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals said, “We are looking support from the government of allowing a larger workforce to come to pharma manufacturing plants. We are taking all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, due to the government’s order of paying full salary and 21 days lockdown, we are seeing less number of workforce turnarounds in the units, which may result in difficulties in producing essential medicines.”

He also mentioned that in Dehradun itself, his company has nine manufacturing units, which employs over a 10,000 strong workforce. As it is, the authority is allowing only 10 per cent of manpower strength, which will result in less production even though the company has the capacity, capabilities, and availability of raw materials to produce finished formulations. “However, we respect the government’s order and will pay to all our employees irrespective of their attendance,” he added.

In the letter, the DMAU has also mentioned that during the lockdown, many employees have misunderstood that even those industries and establishments that are required to be running and open under essential services category by the government (e.g pharmaceuticals, medicines, hospitals, law and order, goods and transportation, food

shops, milk, etc) are coming under the ambit of this order. And so, many employees are shirking their national duty and skipping essential work thinking that employers who are running the essential businesses will be compelled to pay them even under this order. This is a dangerous precedent because it can lead to a cripple the production, distribution and delivery of essential time and further compound the problem that the nation is facing.

The letter significantly points out that it will not be possible to run a factory at 10 per cent attendance and very soon

those employees who are actually serving the nation, society, company may also stop coming leading to a de-facto shutdown of the essential industries also.

Due to the nationwide lockdown, the state is also facing problems like permission issues, employee passes, some high

the handedness of police officials, restrictions on vehicles including goods etc.

Sikaria informed, “We are also facing problems at transportation front, and due to this we are unable to get the raw materials in the estimated time. Hence, unless the supply chain is improved, we will not be able to manufacture/deliver the medicines.”

Uttarakhand produces over 15 per cent of the total drugs manufactured in the entire country.

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