More Cash Incentives for Namma Metro Workers to Stay On

Over 2,500 migrants working for the Namma Metro project in Bangalore are among the two lakh guest workers, who have returned to their home states so far. Anticipating a mass exodus of more workers, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL) and construction companies are coming up with incentives to dissuade labourers from leaving the city.

It’s learnt that many labourers working for almost all companies engaged by the Namma Metro authorities including Simplex Infrastructure, URC Constructions, ITD Cementation India, L&T, NCC and IL&FS have already left the city. While companies that have hired a large number of workers are managing to continue with their work, the projects that had employed only limited manpower have taken a hit.

BMRCL also confirmed that at least 25% of the workforce has either left or is waiting to leave. “Currently, about 6,500 workers are doing construction activity every day. They are being looked after well and they do not want to go back. About 25% of the pre-lockdown workforce of about 9,000 have either left or are waiting for their turn to leave,” Ajay Seth, Managing Director, BMRCL said.

“BMRCL continues to ensure that their healthcare, shelter and food arrangements are made and wages are paid in a timely manner. Wages for the entire lockdown period have been paid. As economic activities are picking up, many are opting to stay back. We expect that those who left might return soon,” Seth said.

The contractors are also coming up with ways to retain their workforce. “We have come up with an incentive plan to encourage workers to stay back. If a worker stays back for three months till August, we have promised to pay an additional Rs 3,000 every month. Many have stayed back,” a contractor said. He also hoped many who left might return once the Railways restart regular services from June.

On an average, an unskilled labourer is paid Rs 15,000 a month while a semi-skilled worker gets Rs 17,500 and the skilled labourer working for the Metro takes home about Rs 20,000. Each company hired anywhere between 500 and 2,500 workers for taking up each Metro project. There were also complaints against a few companies that they did not look after their labourers well, including not paying of salaries during the two-month lockdown.

The BMRCL, however, denied such allegations. Ramu P, who works for Namma Metro and hails from Bihar, said he wants to go back home and return in two months. “It’s safe back in my village. We hear there are plenty of Coronavirus cases in Bengaluru. I want to be with my wife and children. When the situation returns to normal, I will come back,” he said.

It’s also learnt that the BMRCL had a meeting with all the construction companies last week to understand the ground realities in connection with the workers. At least two projects, Mysore Road and Kanakapura Road Metro extensions, were scheduled to be completed this year but these projects are now expected to be delayed.

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