First a word on the extension of the lockdown in Maharashtra up until the month end. Does that really put a spanner in the works? Were you all gearing up in any case to begin construction sites after the 21-day national lockdown?
There was a thing in our mind that it could be extended. However, three things have happened. Number one, transport has fully been opened up for the purposes of goods and though there were initial hiccups, by the mid of this coming week, we should have the transport operations in line. A large number of truck drivers were just not available.
We have had meetings with the home ministry, we have had meetings with the commerce ministry, the prime minister’s office and the finance minister and the entire direction is that factories and construction will be allowed to start in a phase-wise manner subject to conditions, safe distancing, looking after the labour, keeping temperatures regularly and doing all that is necessary in order to contain the problem ofcoronavirus. This recommendation has gone on Saturday evening to the home ministry and we are expecting that by today or at the most tomorrow morning, we should be getting a green signal in terms of starting all the segments in a phase-wise manner. We do not expect everything to start tomorrow.
Number two, the essential works like municipal corporation, essential work for the monsoon and the railways, all these activities are expected to start; some of them have started last week with the migrant workers who are already on the site. So my view is that in the next 7 to 10 days, construction will start in phase-wise manner but not in every location, not in every place, not in order to create a migration of workers again. It is intended to be started with all precautions being taken. It is a correct decision and we are looking forward to it for quite some time.
That is the other thing that I wanted to talk about. While it seems obvious that when it comes to construction sites orreal estateas a sector, the first phase is obviously going to be workers who are locked in on the sites already but what about the migrant labourers who for big cities like Delhi as well as Maharashtra was a big issue? So how is it that you mitigate this labour issue because most of them have already fled to their own native states?
Construction takes up 15% of the workforce of India. It is a huge amount. Now the idea was that those who are already there and have not moved out to the villages, we should start giving the work to them first and that is the most important factor. Second, a large number of people were required for agriculture operations during the harvest season and the planting of the crops; so I think that is the second part of it. We do not want the migrant workers who have already gone to the villages to rush back. So the first phase of activity probably for the next 10 to 15 days will be to stick to those workmen who are already in the cities and in the nearby areas and also near the factories. So that is priority. Second priority would be probably after the lockdown is lifted for the migrant labourers to actually come back.
April 13, 2020