While on the one hand migrant labourers are seen marching homewards, taking great risks to escape the cloud of COVID-19 pandemic in the Pune city, on the other hand, it appears that many workers engaged in Pune metro project work continue to be in danger of infection, without masks and adherence to distancing norms.
Labourers toiling to finish the Pune Metro, have been put to task despite the outbreak at the moment, with the assurance that all COVID-19 safety measures will be followed to safeguard their health. For this, special permission was also given to the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MahaMetro) by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), with the guarantee that mandated precautions will be in place.
And yet, on field, as per a recent report by Pune Mirror, it was observed that all safety norms are being tossed aside by workers, raising the possibility of rapid coronavirus transmission among them. As the monsoon approaches in the span of less than a month, ongoing construction of the Pune Metro attains an urgent hue, particularly in the city’s riverbeds. As once excess water is released from connected dams, the work should not create any obstructions for the flow of water.
While giving permissions, the civic administration clearly asked Maha-Metro authorities to carry out work only in non-containment zones. Even while doing so, Metro authorities were asked to ensure that they will follow all distancing and other safety norms, like donning masks and gloves, to see that the vulnerable workers are not endangered.
As per the report, workers were seen brought to the construction site along the riverbed at Baba Bhide and Sangam bridges, in packed buses; the same vehicles ferry them back to the labour camps where they are residing, once they finish their work for the day.
However, it was apparent that physical distancing norms are being flouted, as workers crowded to get onto the buses. Supervisors failed to ensure that they kept masks on while gathering. Although MahaMetro submitted that such transport back and forth from work would ply at half capacity to ensure distancing, some buses were evidently plying at full capacity.
Even when actual work began on field, distancing norms were neglected, several workers were seen gathered at one point in what now qualifies as a dangerous crowd, sitting quite close to each other. While they have been given masks by the authorities, many were seen not wearing them; and no supervisors took notice of the same.
In fact, all this while, supervisors did not even once ask the workers to maintain proper distance. MahaMetro (Pune) public relations general manager Hemant Sonawane said, “We have given clear instructions to all supervisors to strictly adhere to COVID-19 safety norms while working on field. All labourers are also being personally instructed about the importance of distancing. However, if these rules are not being followed, we will look into the issue and make sure that corrective measures are taken at the earliest. If workers have some issues, we will address them as well. But, we will make certain that there are no lapses when it comes to following coronavirus safety mandates.”
Faced with this situation, even the civic administration expressed concern. PMC commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad, said, “Before giving them permission, they were asked to follow all norms necessitated with regards to the pandemic. If they are not doing so, it is a matter of worry. I will personally speak to the higher authorities of Pune Metro and ask them to ensure compliance. If they are facing any problems in procuring safety equipment like masks and gloves, we are ready to provide them with it. But they must absolutely follow all norms.”