Autonagar in Vijayawada, known as the largest automobile service hub in the Asian continent is witnessing steep lows due to the sudden corona virus shutdown. With a turnover of nearly 1000 crore per month, employing nearly one lakh directly and a source of livelihood for about 4 lakh families indirectly, is a hub of assembling units, source of spare parts and scrapping units for all the automobiles ranging from motorcycles, cars, buses and lorries among others. The industry at Autonagar faced challenges prior to COVID19 crisis as well. Owing to the countrywide lockdown, the industry and its dependents have met with an unanticipated roadblock making it one of the worst nightmares for the technicians and labour force involved.
An industry with over 1000 crores rupees of monthly turnover earlier has been through many hiccups due to bifurcation of the State. With the construction activity and developments in the capital region of Amaravati, the industry made its steps towards stability. The Polavaram project has also been a constant source of business with the orders coming in owing to purchase of trucks and movers creating a lot of work for assembling workshops and allied repair works.
The units that have seen maximum work during the 2019 general elections have seen a steep decline immediately after the change of Government in the State. The new sand policy and six months inactivity before it was introduced coupled with unavailability of sand and the decline in truck transportation has impacted the works at Autonagar. The halting of capital works and pause at Polavaram due to retendering has tightened the clamps at Autonagar.
Construction activities at Amaravati have been a constant source of demand for the new trucks for the movement of sand, gravel, cement, construction machinery and more. New purchases have declined and the old trucks are out of work now. Subsequently, many dependent assembling workshops and repair units lost most of their business, and closure of a few more is evident through the number of ‘To-let’ boards hanging all over the Autonagar area.
The lockdown has only worsened the scenario for these workers. With the current COVID-19 crisis many of these workshop owners are neither in a position to pay their rents nor salaries to their employees. Many units are on the verge of closing as most of the workers have returned to their native places and with no clarity of a certain future or even a date of return there remains a lot of uncertainty for Autonagar.
The workers and workshop owners are waiting for a boost in the construction activity in the region that can revive the work for them. While the future still looks gloomy for most of the Autonagar, the State and centre’s incentives to MSMEs come as the light at the end of the tunnel. Unless the state incentives and interventions result in immediate work opportunities, the workers of Autonagar continue to hang in the middle.