On-site Construction Labourers in Mumbai turn Anxious to Return Home

Several on-site labourers in Mumbai want to take special trains being run to transport workers back home. The rising number of Covid-19 cases in the city has caused anxiety among them. While some wish to return to their families, others need to reach to their farms before the sowing season. Labourers go back in summers because it is wedding season and also a helping hand is needed to till the family land in villages.

“Following the government’s recent decision to permit the migrant workers to travel to their home states, there has been a rush of applications from the migrant workers who want to take the special trains to their home state. The lockdown has tested patience of these workers,” said a spokesperson for Shapoorji Pallonji Engineering & Construction (SP E&C).

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has close to 11,000 labourers working on different projects, including the city-wide metro network. A top official said: “We have been able to execute work smoothly due to the lockdown since roads were empty and management of the construction work was easy. Labour is our only concern.”

The official said workers may start feeling uneasy if the number of Covid-19 cases in the city rises further. “They are at our site and taken care of, and need not worry about infections. However, we cannot force them to stay back if they wish to go,” he added.

For now, the city planning authority has managed to create awareness and convince them to stay back. Some like SP E&C are using incentives, among other measures, to keep the labourers motivated. “We are incentivising our workers financially and releasing timely payments to motivate our workers.”

Other measures include assurance over continuity of preventive and welfare measures in the post-lockdown scenario, motivational talks for workers to alleviate their anxiety and urging them not to believe in rumours.

While attempts continue to convince the labour class, some like SP E&C expect it would take at least six months for the worker strength to return to normal.

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