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TN bid to kickstart economy may run into manpower crisis as migrants prefer to return home

While developers say they have been taking care of the construction workers by providing them with food and shelter, most of the workers claim they want to return home rather than avail food or money.

Published: 02nd May 2020 05:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 02nd May 2020 06:52 PM   |  A+A-

migrant worker, chennai

Workers from a private construction firm in Guindy Industrial Estate protesting against poor supply of ration and urging authorities to send them back home. (Photo | Martin Louis, EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Though the lockdown measures are being relaxed, real estate developers are a worried lot as they face a manpower crisis since migrant workers who will play a key role in kickstarting the economy want to go home.

Being locked down in construction sites and without work, many have been urging the labour contractors to send them home and have even launched protests.

While developers say they have been taking care of the construction workers by providing them with food and shelter, most of the workers claim they want to return home rather than avail food or money.

Workers at Fomra Infrastructure and a construction site in Ayanambakkam have taken to the streets urging the authorities to send them back home. "We are not able to send money to our homes as we were not getting salaries on time. I could not even send back Rs 5,000 a month as most is spent here," says 25-year-old Chandrabhan working in a site in Ayanambakkam. On Saturday, he participated in a protest by workers demanding their salaries for March.

Protests also took place at the Guindy Industrial Estate with migrant workers taking to the streets highlighting their poor living conditions and lack of support from a prestigious developer. Duleshwar Majhi, a tribal belonging to Odisha, told The New Indian Express that the living conditions during the lockdown have been absymal. "A couple of workers fell ill. They conducted tests but did not give the report," he said.

The workers are a harried lot when it comes to food. "They give 10 kg of rice for 10 people a week. This means 10 people survive on only one 1 kg rice which comes to food for only one time. We want to go back but they have not paid us salaries for two months," says Duleshwar.

S Sridharan, chairman of Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India, Tamil Nadu, told Express that the construction sector is now in a catch-22 situation. "Once the work starts, many of the workers may think twice about returning but if they go, it will take months for them to come back," he said.

"The protest is happening as they see trains and buses being allowed to take them back home. They are already in anxiety as they are waiting in their room and idling. Once the work starts, we leave it to contractors and workers to decide. Many may work and for the rest it is their freedom to choose," said Sridharan.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government is going to launch a portal for migrant workers and people stranded in the state due to the nationwide lockdown.

Officials told Express that once the portal comes into being, standard operating procedures will be worked out for the movement of stranded workers, students, tourists and pilgrims to different parts of the country. It is learnt that the state is keen to retain migrant workers who are willing to work after the lockdown ends to ensure there is no labour crisis. "Those willing to go will be given permission," sources added.

Workers at the construction sites, who have been depressed without work, may be allowed to work from Monday provided the state government gives its nod. There are four lakh people from other states stranded in Tamil Nadu including migrant workers, pilgrims, students and those doing petty jobs or businesses.

It is learnt that the initial focus of the state will be to facilitate the travel of patients from other states who have been caught here. While many migrant workers have expressed their keenness to return home, industries, which are dependent on these workers, feel they are key in restarting the work after the lockdown is eased.

More from Tamil Nadu.

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