Fellow defence PSUs BEL, BEML await their turn

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. on Tuesday resumed aircraft manufacturing activities across its centres after a gap of 35 days under the ongoing nationwide lockdown. It becomes one of the early few production entities to be picking up the threads of old routine again.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has allowed it to function as an essential defence service and under strict safety guidelines. Employees have been asked to commute to work on their own, according to an official letter.

The Bangalore headquarters includes the helicopter, fixed wing and research units and has 15,000 of its total manpower of 28,000. This includes officers, workers, contract and casual work force, an official said.

The defence public enterprise, along with virtually all public and private industrial sectors in the country, had halted work on March 24 when the Centre enforced a nationwide lockdown to check the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the last five weeks, only a minimum number of staff on essential services worked.

The State-owned defence aircraft company has been advised to run two shifts with an hour’s gap between the two to avoid crowding of staff on the premises. “Divisions/offices may resume normal operations with effect from 28.4.2020 in two shifts (8 hours each),” the letter said. Canteens will serve only coffee and tea.

HAL manufactures and services military planes and helicopters mainly for the Indian Air Force across multiple locations. It has been cleared ‘on a par with defence’ to resume work as it provides essential services to keep the IAF operationally ready.

Employees must follow the standard COVID-19 precautions issued by the Centre and the State: screening of staff and contract workers at the entrance, keeping safe distance among employees, frequent hand sanitisation, personal hygiene, and wearing of masks.

Supplies So Far

Bharat Electronics Ltd. and BEML are two other defence PSUs based in Bengaluru. Sources in BEL and BEML separately said they, too, expected to get resumption clearances shortly. Non-essential production activities have been paused.

Under the lockdown so far, a BEL unit in Bengaluru has been producing ventilators that may be required by critically ill COVID-19 patients.

During the health crisis, HAL has manufactured and supplied 300 aerosol cabinets to various hospitals and distributed 56,000 masks among migrant labourers. It has earmarked 93 isolation beds in Bangalore for COVID-19 patients.