The multiple phases of lockdown in view of the coronavirus pandemic and resultant upheaval in the migrant labour force has upset the Nagpur Metro’s construction target, which is set to be delayed. Work on Nagpur Metro project had to be stopped for over a month amid the lockdown and MahaMetro officials had hoped that they would be able to make up for the delay when government gave green signal for restarting construction.
However, shortage of men and material is hampering the work. According to MahaMetro managing director Brijesh Dixit around one-third of the construction workers have left for their native villages. The percentage of depletion in workforce is varying for different Metro contractors.
Metro officials admitted that while contractors provided meals to the workers, they did not pay wages. This was the reason for large scale exodus of workers. “Metro is paying wages to the workers instead of the contractors. We have just paid salary for March 25 to March 31 period. Process is on for paying wages for April 1 to April 7 period. We urge the workers to wait as their salaries would be paid, but many of them don’t listen,” said an official.
The exodus of Metro workers took place in two phases. The first lot left when state government announced a lockdown. The second happened when Shramik Special trains started. AFCONS Infrastructure Ltd is constructing Hingna depot. Its officials said there were around 230 workers before the lockdown, but only around 150 are working now.
They admitted that completion of the depot would be delayed by three months. “We are not only facing shortage of men but also cement, gravel, sand etc. As transport of these materials is not regular, we run out of them many times,” said the officials.
AFCONS officials said they were maintaining Covid distancing at the worksite. “There is a distance of six feet between two workers. They wear mask and wash hands with sanitizers frequently. We have set up a machine which dispenses water and sanitizer through a foot pedal,” they added.
Metro officials at LAD Square station said the date for completing the construction was July 30, but there would be a delay. “We can specify the quantum only after meeting with senior officials,” they said. These officials claimed that the contractor had paid wages to the workers and only 10% of them had left. Work is going on at five stations on Sitabuldi to Khapri stretch.
“Earlier, around 200 workers used to work in each station. Now, there are only 20 due to manpower shortage and to ensure Covid distancing. Around 50% of the workforce has gone home. The speed of work has reduced drastically,” said an official.