Although the government has permitted MahaMetro to begin work with full capacity, authorities claim they are unable to resume construction in full swing owing to shortage of workforce after the large-scale exodus of outstation workers.
Officials have now written to bureaucrats in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal, requesting them to facilitate return journey of skilled labourers to the city in an attempt to recommence work on the project with maximum strength of workers.
Days after the first case of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was reported in Pune, construction work for MahaMetro was discontinued as per government directives. While the workers were housed in labour camps in March and April, with government authorities granting permission for inter-state travel in May and running Shramik Special trains, nearly 70 per cent of the labourers preferred to leave for their hometowns in other states.
With the government now offering relaxation to conduct business activities to boost the economy, MahaMetro too has resumed its work on Vanaz-Ramwadi and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) building to Swargate corridors. However, authorities say that due to the paucity of labourers, work is progressing at a snail’s pace.
“Since most workers have left for their native places, work on the Metro project has resumed with 20 per cent of the total workforce. We wanted to make up for the lost time with the easing of curbs, but we are unable to keep up the pace due to the lack of manpower,” said Hemant Sonawane, general manager, public relations, MahaMetro (Pune).
After most of the migrant workers went back to their home states, Maha-Metro officials asked labour contractors to fill in the void in manpower with local labourers. For their parts, contractors have claimed that they are unable to find enough skilled labourers locally. “For projects such as the Metro construction, we require workers with specific skills with knowledge of welding, carpentry or concrete construction. Some local people were willing to take up the job but lacked the skills, while home-grown labourers with the required skill sets were numbered,” said a contractor.
As a result, the MahaMetro officials have now approached district collectors from various districts of the states from where most number of workers had come to the city, requesting them to facilitate the return of the workers to Pune. “We have written to district collectors from states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal, seeking their help for the return of the labourers from their respective districts. We have assured them that now the work will not halt and we will be taking utmost care of the workforce. If the district collectors facilitate their travel back to Pune, we will be happy to make necessary arrangements for their return,” Sonawane said. According to the contractors, the workers, on their part, are willing to come back to the city but need assurance of their health and well-being. “Most of the workers who have gone back do not have any work in their native place. They are sitting idle at home and don’t mind joining back work. However, they are still sceptical about the virus situation in Pune. When we speak to them, they demand assurance that they will be safe here. Once they are convinced that they have no danger of getting infected with the virus or will get proper treatment, they will consider coming back to the city,” said another contractor.