Lockdown: HAL resumes ops after 'essential service' tag

Bengaluru: HAL resumes ops after 'essential service' tag from Centre amid coronavirus lockdown

Surprise decision

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is seen on the facade of the company's heritage centre in Bengaluru (Reuters Photo)

With just five days to go for the end of the lockdown period, different complexes of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) returned to work on Tuesday morning.

The move comes after the Ministry of Home Affairs declared the company an essential service.

In a letter to the Ministry of Defence on April 26, Ashish Kumar Singh, undersecretary, disaster management division in the Ministry of Home Affairs,  forwarded the Indian Air Force’s request to exempt the company as an “office of defence”. 

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“...it is clarified that since Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is stated to be providing essential support service to the IAF for maintaining operational preparedness, it can be treated at par with Defence (para 18 (i) of revised consolidated guidelines issued by the MHA),” the letter read.

Singh also said employees must follow the national Covid-19 directives and standard operating procedures for social distancing at offices, workshops, factories and establishments.

Employees furious 

The move has infuriated employees. “HAL isn’t known for its high-level of sanitation,” said an individual. “The bathrooms are filthy. To recall all the employees and expect things to be safe is madness.”

Another employee pondered over the reasons for opening operations just five days before the end of the nationwide lockdown. “Either (the management) is trying to minimise the financial losses or they are oblivious to the dangers of COVID-19,” he said.

The move surprised company officials.

“I’m not sure about the motive. We’ll have to wait and see,” said one official.

A source said the premature opening could have something to do with HAL offering 24/7 services to the IAF. “This is not just about spares, but also base repairs and overhauls,” he said.

IAF was reached to comment on the urgency behind providing the “essential service” tag to HAL, but it did not respond.

HAL issued a letter on Monday, announcing that all divisions of the Bangalore Complex, Design Complex and Helicopter Complex will resume work in two seven-hour shifts, from 1 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 12 am from Tuesday.