Since the last two days not a single migrant labourer has reported to work at the construction sites of Aarohi Group, one of the leading real-estate developers in Ahmedabad. Dipak Patel, the managing director of the group, said that a portion of the 100-odd work force housed in his labour colony, plan to return home after the Union Home Ministry issued fresh guidelines allowing migrant workers stranded at various parts of the country due to the COVID-19 lockdown to leave.
“We had barely got permissions to restart work after April 20 and the workers had reported to work at our construction sites in South Bopal. However, not a single worker has reported to work since the last two days. My contractors tell me that some of them are keen to return home,” said Patel.
“We cannot force them to stay back as many of them are worried about the safety of their families back home. The workers themselves are scared about getting infected if they continue to work,” said Patel who has been providing food and shelter to the migrant workforce during the lockdown.
Similar situation prevails in other sectors as well after the Union Home Ministry, on April 29, directed the state governments to facilitate the travel of stranded migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students in various parts of the country.
Real-estate players in Gujarat fear that the move will stall the works started in the sector after the state government provided some relaxations from April 20.
“About 100 construction sites in Ahmedabad have restarted work after April 20. However, we expect the work to get stalled after this notification as 70 per cent of the 15,000 workers at these sites might want to return home,” said Ashish Patel, head of Gujarat chapter of CREDAI (Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India).
“There are 50-60 real-estate projects in Surat and Rajkot that had restarted work earlier this week. Now if the remaining migrant workers leave, even these projects might get stalled,” he added.
The situation is similar in some of the government run projects including the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project where 700-odd labourers had begun work at Sabarmati hub and Kaligaon railway workshop after April 20.
On Friday, the Gujarat government claimed that over 4.67 lakh workers have returned to work in as many as 12,768 factories after the state government eased some of the restrictions in rural areas.
However, the containment zones in urban centres is having its adverse effects. For instance, only 300 workers are currently employed in building the Ahmedabad Metro rail. “Work is only at the Gyaspur depot and the two casting yards in the city. A lot of metro rail stretch passes through containment zones and no work is presently going on outside these three places,” said an official spokesperson for Gujarat Metrorail Corporation.
According to earlier estimates by the state government, there were over 9,000 migrants housed in 235 shelters of which 5,000 have been sent back to Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in buses. Government officials say that a city like Surat will have an estimated migrant workforce of 10 lakh.
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