Work on about 60 per cent of roads and building projects of the Public Works Department suspended due to Covid 19 lockdown/curfew has been resumed but yet to go full steam as migrant labourers have not returned and contractors are working with one third work force.
Work on 1,704 projects, including 1,208 roads, 398 buildings and 98 bridges, had been started on June 1 but the progress is tardy as only 10 per cent of migrant labourers have returned. The metalling and tarring of roads, which is done by labourers from Rajasthan and Bihar, have been badly hit as labourers are unwilling to return due to various reasons. The onset of monsoons would further hit the pace of the road projects, said Engineer-in-chief, B K Sharma.
The summer from April to June is the main working season but works were suspended due to curfew imposed after Covid outbreak and when the works resumed, the migrant labourers had already left for their home states and were not keen on returning.
A budget of Rs 3,986 crores has been earmarked and it would be a daunting task to meet the physical and financial target as migrant labourers are backbone of construction works both in government and private sector. Due to curfew and no work even the local labourers had gone home. The Kashmiri labourers were first to go back with no indications of their early return.
Most of the labourers and petty contractors engaged in construction activity from far off states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odissa, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have left for their home states and reluctant to come back. “We have started work with our regular labour which was retained here but are facing shortage of workforce as the migrant labour has not returned”, said a government contractor.
Most of the petty contractors did not have regular work force. They engage skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers on a daily basis on demand. These workers were left in the lurch as they had neither work nor money, leaving them with no other option but to go back. “We are in a dilemma weather to stay or go back to our native places because uncertainty loomed about return of normalcy as peak of Covid 19 is predicted in July” said a labourer from Bihar Jangi Ram.