The apparent lull in the construction industry has dashed the hopes of construction workers that lifting of lockdown would open up opportunities. The daily wagers have been adversely impacted due to unemployment, lack of savings and no access to social security measures to sustain after lockdown. The daily wage earners lament that they are hardly finding any work.
“For more than a week I have been returning empty handed. There is no work,” says Ganesh, a migrant labourer from Visakhapatnam.
The workers assemble at Benz Circle in the city at dawn every day. Not less than 200 people compete if there is a work for 10 people. Not all who wait at this adda are fortunate to find a job every day, he says. “There were days when we used to go to work on Sunday too. But now with a great difficulty, I get work for just one or two days a week,” says Anil, who migrated to the city from Ongole four years ago.
Suryanarayana, another worker, says that the wages had also come down after lockdown. Earlier, ₹650 per day used to be paid to a coolie. Now, not even ₹500 per day is paid. A maestri ( head) used to earn ₹900 and now hardly ₹700 is paid, he says.
Ganesh recalls that he was a maestri before lockdown. “Now, though, I am ready to work as a coolie. Believe it or not, there is no rice for tomorrow. I have to feed two children and my wife,” he says.
“The poor job market has raised a question mark over our livelihood. As several residential projects have been halted, our livelihood has been hit hard,” says Raju, another mason.
The construction workers say it is time the government looked at the burning problems of construction workers and supplied ration at their doorstep.