Urban Railways

Unable to get Enough Skilled Labour Locally, Nagpur Metro Hopes to Bring Migrants Back

The exodus of migrants working on Nagpur Metro Project, has reduced the number of labourers available with MahaMetro to nearly one-fourth of its earlier strength. In pre-Covid times, the MahaMetro had 6,000 workers, the numbers came down to half after the exodus that followed soon after the first lockdown. Another batch of 1,800 left in the second phase leaving only 1,200.

Now as some of the workers have returned and the MahaMetro has also sourced manpower from nearby areas, the total number of labourers engaged in the project has marginally increased to 1,600. The corporation’s management admitted this has led to a major impact on the project.

Even as work on the project was allowed during the lockdown from May first week onwards, it remained hampered as workers were not available. The work continues at a snail’s pace even now, said officials in the corporation. The MahaMetro had workers from different parts of the country like West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Some labourers working at a project site along the Metro route from Ambazari to Lokmanya Nagar station said “All of us are locals. Those from other states have left during the lockdown, the migrant workers left because there was no salary during the lockdown period, they had no choice but to go back to their home”.

Those who didn’t go back, stayed only because they couldn’t get a train back. “There were no trains, so I stayed back,” one of the migrant labours working on project site said. “They paid only 15 days’ wages during the month-long lockdown,” said a worker from Bengal as his supervisor quickly intervened saying, “They will be paid the remaining wages soon.”

Works for the Metro rail project have been granted to three major firms, which in turn have engaged several other subcontractors including that for labour supply. This makes a complex network, said a MahaMetro official. The direct employees of the firms stayed back, but majority of the workers deployed through sub-contractors left.

MahaMetro Managing Director Brijesh Dixit accepted that work has been impacted due to the workers going away. “After the first batch, another major chunk took the Shramik Special trains and left. Although it was ensured that the contractors’ wage bills were cleared as and when put up. The process continues,” he said.

Dixit said there are plans to take the number of workers to 5,000 till August. He said attempts are being made to bring back the workers from their home states. “We are coordinating with the contractors and also the respective district collectors for bringing back the workers. The workers are being given authorization letters from the corporation to facilitate their return. This has helped and some have returned too,” he said. The returning workers are kept under quarantine for 14 days before engaging them at the site, he added.