Another spell of Lockdown – How’s Neyveli?
For those who have not yet had a tryst with this Heaven on Earth, let me inform that Neyveli Township is a planned residential town housing quarters for primarily employees working at NLC India Limited (previously Neyveli Lignite Corporation) located in the Cuddalore District of Tamilnadu (200 kilometers away from Chennai city). NLC India Limited has Power Stations fuelled by Lignite excavated from large open cast Mines. The township is called a paradise by those who have lived here while those living here now readily vouch for this fact. The township has well laid out roads, beautiful parks, 24x7 water supply and uninterrupted power supply. As if this were not enough, the sublime beauty of the township is reflected in its greenery provided by thousands of trees.
So what’s the mood in Neyveli like, in the second spell of Lockdown? And what do people feel about all this lockdown business?
I tried to find out.
First, any Neyvelian will agree that the usual everyday life in Neyveli is itself similar to a lockdown, with its unhurried pace of life and the absence of much traffic on roads!!
Ok, seriously, the lockdown is certainly a bit stifling for people who are used to sauntering out on evenings to catch up with a friend or two or do some small time shopping for groceries or vegetables.
Life at Neyveli Township revolves around the activities at Mines, Power Stations, the Service Units and of course, the residential areas where the housing quarters are situated. The township comes under the administrative control of NLC India Limited. So, the lockdown was the outcome of the decision of the top management of NLCIL to enforce it, based on the directions from the local and central governments as was the case all over the country. The central government’s guidelines decide the course of action to be followed at Industrial Units and offices, while the directions from the local district and state authorities are applied to civil life within the township.
The NLCIL management found itself in a situation where it had to do some balancing act; keeping the industrial activity going while ensuring that it complied with directions on restrictions on public movement. It also had to ensure the safety of the workforce on duty in the industrial units. These were strange situations without precedent and called for dicey decisions to be taken without too much of compromise to avoid any slipups. One must say that the Management has acted with utmost caution and commendable alacrity with minimum adverse impact on the overall interests of all stakeholders.
Lockdown at Work Places
The Human Resources Department has played its part well, coming out with strategic ideas and solutions to deal with this peculiar situation as best as possible. Even with limited manpower, they have managed to diligently put in place various measures to streamline administrative procedures, work procedures for those “Working from Home”, Leave rules formulations, guidelines for employees and also conduct an effective awareness campaign to educate people. Noteworthy that they accomplished all these with a skeletal work force around. A huge challenge managed through strong decisions and swift action.
Those at the helm of affairs in Industrial Units had their task cut out too. Addressing the skepticism of a fear stricken industrial work force is not easy under any circumstances and these were no ordinary times. One must credit the senior officials for their grit and spirited campaign to deal with this situation where workmen would naturally have been hesitant to report for work in the face of an “invisible enemy”. Roster rotation, 50% of workmen on duty, travel permit cards to carry, limited transport options, masked faces, Sanitizers, encouraging personal hygiene....all hitherto unheard of at Industrial workplaces, I am sure there will be many many tales from these people to tell their grandchildren of the strange situation they had to face and endure.
Lockdown in the Township
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Hamlet was spot on.
Yes, and this is probably one of them!!! Who would have ever dreamt that a day would come when there would be a great lockdown of human beings all over the world, where one stayed back home and once in a while, ventured out like a fugitive complete with a mask and a hood to make some quick hunt for food materials and dashed back home before the virus spotted him/her? Residents of Neyveli Township must count their blessings though, with a proactive administration that left no stone unturned to ensure availability of essential goods and materials by making special arrangements.
People too have co-operated with the administration and showed utmost restraint to maintain that much needed social discipline in public places.
Families – The Good and the Bad
Homemakers have coped up with this new situation yes, though not without hassles. Spouses and children staying at home all the time is probably tough on their nerves, leaving them little time to rest. With domestic helps staying away, the chores they do have gone up in quantity - doing the dishes, cleaning and cooking, so much that this agony being stretched further is not good news for them. On the flip side though, spending quality time with family more than makes up for this unexpected interruption in domestic life.
For the rest of the family, life has dawdled to shifting from the Television to the Computer to the Mobile and returning to the Television again. Men are seen going out with large shopping bags and making best use of the make-shift vegetable and fruit outlets, getting whatever is available. Unknown fears spurred many into hoarding several grocery items in the beginning, but as it became slowly evident that there would be a continuous supply of essential commodities, purchase for the sake of hoarding has eased and people are purchasing what is only essentially required. This is an encouraging sign of maturity among the people. Again, as more and more days pass by, there is now a growing demand for other household items like Batteries, Electric lights, Mobile phones, footwear, bakery products, Computer hardware products and the like. So, the men are waiting for the day these outlets also open up.
Having good neighbors is great for this lockdown, you have someone to chat with or spend some time with. Conversely, those who have bad neighbors don’t have that luxury. Neyveli township is a mixed bag. Some are lucky and some unlucky. In case neighbors are not of the conversing type, well, family members will have to stick with each other and the mobile. The mobile has come in handy for many to catch up with childhood friends and long lost relations.
Lockdown for Children
For all children, this lockdown is good in as much as it shuts down the school. A good riddance. Especially with examinations hovering around. The government’s decision to do away with the Annual examinations and promote all students to higher classes has come as a great gift to all children. They can really be free from all classroom bondage for now and enjoy these unexpected holidays. For some who were halfway through their board exams, well, they are caught between the proverbial Devil and the Deep Blue sea. They can neither relax nor study. Those who have finished their +2 and are planning to enter college, they might as well be called the “Corona Batch” at their college. For these students, it is indeed tough as the disruption came at the wrong time of the year, when they are required to apply to colleges. They are the worried lot. And their parents too.
Traders and People of Unorganised sector – the worst hit
Traders, Vendors, Merchants are the worst hit. They must be waiting for the lockdown to end. It’s a painful situation where your earnings are halted suddenly by a googly from Mother Nature. The fairly large group of labourers in the unorganized sector, those working in hotels, commercial establishments, schools, financial institutions, clinics have grim days ahead in these uncertain times. Migrants from the North East work at Blue Diamond Hotel, Hotel Swarna Bhavan, Hotel Radha and a host of other small eateries both inside Neyveli Township and opposite Arch Gate area; there are street hawkers too besides others working at several small commercial establishments. Those working at the Industrial Units have been provided for, both with medicines and food. All of them will doubtless be waiting for this lock down to end as quickly as possible.
The overall Mood
On the whole, it is seen that the mood has become somber now, after the first spell which was seen off with some enthusiasm. The fear of the unknown is still there, the situation is still scary. The eerie silence and a hurried gait with which people are going about their short spurts of shopping coupled with the terrifying masks that cover the faces carry a tale. For now, this is the new normal, where a cough or a sneeze is enough to throw people into a scare. How long this will continue is anybody’s guess.
The numbers (26 positive cases in Cuddalore district) say that we are not yet out of the woods, and we don’t know which way the swing will go, up or down. Till there is a conclusive indication that the curve is indeed going down, we cannot let down our guard.
NLC India is not taking things easy and that is reassuring. The Hospital continues to be on alert, the authorities are still monitoring the situation daily and because of this, we are able to stay safe at our houses.
Yes, these are strange situations and we have never been there before, it may take several months to return back to our good old days. Right now, Neyvelians are perhaps looking at a partial resumption of other services as quickly as possible. God be with us all.


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