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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Delhi: Construction work off to a slow start despite unlock

While arrangements were made for single workers, those with families struggled to make ends meet while many others left for their hometowns.

Written by Ashna Butani | New Delhi |
Updated: June 2, 2021 2:30:47 pm
Delhi: Work off to a slow start despite unlockConstruction workers rejoin work in New Delhi after Covid-19 restrictions were eased. (Photo: PTI)

As construction work resumed in the national capital as part of easing of coronavirus restrictions, around half of the usual labour force turned up. While arrangements were made for single construction workers, those who stay with families in the city struggled to make ends meet in their rented homes, while many others left for their hometowns.

Work on the Integrated Transit Corridor around Pragati Maidan resumed on Monday morning. The contract company, Larsen & Toubro Limited, had made arrangements for 300 workers to stay in temporary sheds built on an empty plot at Sarai Kale Khan, throughout the lockdown.

The construction supervisor, Jeevan Kumar Das, said he and the other workers who stayed on-site were also provided with three meals a day.

Another worker said that rooms provided on-site could accommodate four or five but for those with families it was difficult. Workers continued to work on an underpass on their first day.

Another group of workers for a contract company called Nina Percept at Pragati Maidan said that they chose to stay back. Even though work was stopped, they were given 30 per cent of their salary.

A 25-year-old construction worker from Uttar Pradesh said, “We still got Rs 13,000 to 14,000 a month. With 70 per cent cut because of the lockdown, it was difficult to survive. I stay with my family and pay Rs 3,000 rent per month. I have a child and wife to look after and food costs us a few thousand rupees.”

Another worker, hailing from Assam, chose to stay in the city, only to regret it later. He has two children and also lives on rent. He said, “I had gone home last year during the lockdown. This year, we thought the situation would improve. But now I think going home would have been a better option.”

The two workers said that their colleagues, who went home, kept calling them to inquire about the situation. They are hoping to resume work soon on return.

At a DMRC Phase 4 construction site, work continued throughout the lockdown as the contract companies had made arrangements near the site. However, the work had slowed down due to a labour shortage. A security guard at the construction site said that due to uncertainty, only 25 out of 175 labourers stayed when the lockdown was first announced.

This time around, the oxygen crisis as well as the surge of Covid cases added to their woes and fear. A worker at the site said, “One of our site engineers contracted Covid-19 infection and died … he had very low oxygen levels. Since then, we were too scared.”

Workers started coming back to work once the Covid cases declined. Around 100 workers were present at the site on Monday.

Aakil Baig (50), who stayed back and continued to work, said that the company, Arena Infrastructure had made arrangements close to the site and ensured vehicles and passes.

Meanwhile, Ayyub Khan (49), who went home to Meerut for a few days but returned soon to resume work.

Both the workers had gone home last year and returned only around Diwali. They said that they had lost both time and money last year but are glad that they did not repeat the mistake this year.

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