It was Tuntun Kumar Yadav’s third day back at work on Saturday at the Mulund construction site that was locked down like everything else in the country in the third week of March. The 23-year-old worker from Madhubani district in Bihar will be paid Rs 400 per day.
But Tuntun is in no frame of mind to count money. All he wants now is to go back home. “I have filled the migrant form and submitted it at the police station and they have told me that they will call me any moment, so I keep checking my phone…”
Tuntun and his brother Mutkul came to Mumbai in November 2019 and found work at the Mulund construction site. He says, “When I was coming to Mumbai I never thought that I would get caught in this city in this manner.”
The two brothers are employed to plaster the walls of the 17-floor residential building. With trucks and a cement mixer around, they have been passing their time in makeshift houses within the site’s premises.
“Our contractor has been providing us food. A few days ago, he gave us five kilograms rice and wheat. So he has been helping us in every way possible, but going back home is the only solution we have,” said another worker Devendra Yadav.
After more than a month of a strict lockdown during which all construction work was shut down, the government has allowed construction work to resume from May 4, wherever workers are available on site. Nearly 150 private developers have taken permits to resume work. But workers are not interested in staying, even if it means earning a livelihood. They are desperate to go home, developers are discovering the hard way.
“It is important that some activity starts. Mainly, pre-monsoon work has begun at the construction site. Developers have started work with the existing workers, but it is difficult to convince them. Many want to return home. We are trying to explain to them the present scenario and the hassle in procuring tickets and travelling. We are also in talks with the government to allow new construction activity at the sites, where workers, machinery and other raw materials is available. The suggestion is under consideration,” said Dharmesh Jain, former president, Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry.