New Delhi: For Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, India’s largest car manufacturer, vaccinating all its employees and contract workers will be a priority in the coming months.
Maruti had around 16,000 employees and more than 17,000 non-regular employees such as contract workers and apprentices on its rolls as of March 2020, working across its offices and two manufacturing plants at Gurgaon and Manesar, the company’s annual report shows.
“We will certainly vaccinate all our employees. Both regular employees and our casual workers, contract workers and contractors’ workers working in the plants will be vaccinated. I would have liked to start immediately but we will wait till 1 May,” R.C. Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, told ThePrint.
He said Maruti will complete vaccinating all its employees aged above 45 years in the next few days and will do the necessary back-end work to tie up vaccine supplies for vaccinating its staff.
Maruti is not the only firm that is drawing up elaborate plans to vaccinate its employees.
In a statement issued Friday, Reliance Industries, India’s largest private sector firm, said it will roll out its own vaccination programme for all its employees and their families over 18 years of age beginning 1 May. The company is expected to bear all the costs for the employees, their parents, spouses and children.
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Industry’s long pending demand
For many manufacturing firms in India, the Narendra Modi government’s decision to open up vaccinations for all and allow the private sector to directly purchase vaccines was a long pending demand.
Indian industry has spent more than a year faced with uncertainties and constantly changing central and state government diktats that saw many of them being forced to halt production at very short notices in the months following the stringent April-May lockdown.
The tight central government hold on vaccinations wasn’t helping things either as the private sector increasingly clamoured to be an active participant in the vaccination drive. Demands for involving the private sector were raised as far back as January but the Modi government did not entertain any such demands as it looked to follow a slow pace for the initial vaccination drive.
A resurgent second wave again proved to be a disruption for manufacturing firms, at least those operating in states like Maharashtra where restrictions have been placed on operation of manufacturing plants.
Some others like Hero MotoCorp voluntarily suspended production all across India amid the surge. Hero MotoCorp announced last week that it is shutting down operations in all of its 6 plants till 1 May.
The government’s decision to allow firms to register their workers above 45 years of age for vaccinations brought in some respite with many firms actively getting involved in the vaccination drive. Firms like Mahindra and Mahindra, Dalmia Bharat group have taken the lead in vaccinating their workforce in this age group.
The Modi government’s decision to open up vaccinations for all Indians over 18 years of age and allowing for private sector procurement has brought a ray of hope for firms to ensure business continuity and avoiding the possibility of plant shutdowns.
But even as companies draw up their plans, uncertainty looms over the availability of vaccines from 1 May.
“We have started talks with vaccine manufacturers but we are not sure how much the companies will be able to supply and if it will be sufficient to meet our requirements. We have internally discussed that we will vaccinate our employees as well as their families. But then the challenge is to procure both the doses required,” said an official at one of the top automobile firms.
The official said the firm will look to prioritise the doses for those who require the most. For instance, older people working in the manufacturing plants may get priority over those staff who are working from home.
Jindal Steel and Power has also decided to adopt a different approach.
“We will not create panic buying. Corporates should not be in the race for vaccinating all their employees. We will first vaccinate the older people in our organization and then gradually vaccinate the relatively younger age groups. If we buy all the vaccines,” managing director V.R. Sharma told ThePrint.
He pointed out that companies procuring vaccines in bulk could create shortages for the common man who require the vaccine due to various comorbidities.
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