Of the over 2,800 labourers working for the Pune Metro project in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, nearly 1,600 have left for their home states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar Jharkhand and West Bengal in the last 15 days, since Shramik Special trains and buses started plying. But officials of Maha-Metro, the implementing agency for the project, said Metro work will continue despite the departure of hundreds of workers.
“The work will slow down for sure. But we will not stop the work, it will continue,” Maha-Metro spokesperson Hemant Sonawane told The Indian Express on Thursday.
Maha-Metro officials said they tried to convince the workers to stay back, but they refused to do so. “We held several round of meetings with them. We urged them to stay as Metro had ensured all facilities for them, besides taking care of their health. We even urged them to go back in batches… however, they refused to heed our pleas. We don’t know the exact reason but we guess… they wanted to be with their loved ones at this point of time,” said Sonawane.
Metro work in Pune had come to a complete halt when the nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25, and it eventually started again on April 30.
“The contractors are trying to get in touch with labourers who are already at their native places. They are hopeful of getting some labourers back after more trains start plying after June 1…,” said Sonawane.
He said there were no issues pertaining to labourers’ salaries. “We have ensured that the labour contractors make full payments to the workers. If that was not the case, the labourers would not have remained with us for the first 40-45 days of the lockdown,” said Sonawane.
He said several arrangements were made for the workers during the lockdown. “Medical check-ups of the labourers were conducted regularly at the camps… they were provided recreational facilities like TV sets, carrom boards and chess boards. Mask and sanitisers were distributed and social distancing norms were strictly implemented. As a result, not a single labourer was detected with coronavirus,” said Sonawane.
Metro officials, however, said they weren’t looking to hire labourers locally. “This is because local workers usually avoid construction work…,” said a Metro official, adding that the agency will wait for the return of labourers who have gone back home.
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