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February 3, 2001
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Gujarat's ceramic industry jolted by quake

The killer quake has dealt a body blow to the Rs 5-billion ceramic industrial units, which have been closed for last eight days with no signs of commencing production.

The quake, which killed nearly 200 people in this taluka alone on January 26, extensively damaged the ready to be transported products causing a loss of Rs 100 million to around 100 ceramic industries densely located around this ravaged town.

As one gets closer to Morbi driving from Rajkot heaps of tiles on the roadside get bigger and bigger in size.

"Around 10,000 boxes of wall tiles had to be discarded as the tremors shook and broke them to pieces," said Mukesh Patel of Gem ceramics. He estimates his loss at Rs 2 million.

The first priority for these ceramic industry owners is to start their units again.

"All the workers in my plant, mostly migrant labour from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and interiors of Gujarat have fled as tremors continue to strike at regular intervals," says Mahsukh Patel of Oscar Ceramics.

Each of these 100 ceramic industries employed 100-150 workers and those who have no where to go are left behind. "On an average only 10 labourers have stayed back in each unit and one cannot start the plant with this strength," he said.

These industries account for around 40 per cent of the tile production in India.

Closed since January 26, and with rumours abounding about recurrence of high-magnitude quake, the industry owners do not foresee an early commencement of their production.

"The stocks that we have will run for another 10 days. And we dread to think about future," said Girish Bhai of Deco Ceramics, one of the biggest in the area.

"If the workers do not return early, closure of the production line would cause a loss of Rs 100,000 for every two days," he said, adding the loss is only regarding the profit he would have earned from an operational industry.

Anyway, they are hopeful that the industries would be operational by the month-end.

"The workers have to return, for we used to pay them handsomely," says Ranji Bhai, who owns Ramco Ceramics.

Asked what is the significance of so many of these industries being located side-by-side in Morbi, he said: "It is typical of the business mentality. If one does well in a particular trade, ten of our community will overnight switch over to a similar trade."

"Otherwise, I do not understand why so many in this trade are here when the clay and powder, the raw material for ceramic industry, both come from Rajasthan," said Ranji Bhai.

Till the workers come and till the industries restart, would these owners do something for their brethren in Morbi and Malia? "We have suffered a lot by this earth quake and are not in a position to help the quake-victims," was the business like reply of Mukesh.

The Complete Coverage | List of earthquake sites

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