Slump in property and construction market since the last two years has had a heavy impact on tricity workers, including masons, plumbers, labourers and electricians, leaving them with lesser work. Some have also changed their occupation.
Satinder Singh (53), owner of an electrical store at Phase 7, SAS Nagar, said his earnings have reduced by a considerable 60%. “I stay in my shop all day now and don’t go out. At one time, we used to get calls for electrical fittings and wiring work from people from all over SAS Nagar and Chandigarh. Now, there is no work.”
Jasbir Singh, 56, owner of Uttam Glass and Plywood, said, “Work for small shops has obviously decreased, especially since there is no work. No one is buying property since the last two years.”
Contractors have also played a role in the workers facing stiffer competition in a market that is already sinking.
“In a time of such competition, it is important to deliver good service and be reliable. For anyone who is willing to provide good and reliable service, there will always be ample work. One needs to build a relationship of trust with the consumer, as long as you have that with the consumer you will survive the changing environs,” Jasbir Singh adds.
Rupinder Singh (27), whose family has been in the business of painting and plumbing in Chandigarh, SAS Nagar and Panchkula, says with the coming of contractors and builders, they have been left out of work.
“The work has plummeted to 20%-30% of what it was earlier. We used to get so many calls from residents to whitewash their house or do the plumbing work, but now no one calls,” he adds.
Gurinder Singh, 53, who has three kids and a wife to take care of, used to do wood work for houses. He left that to become a driver. “I used to do wood carvings for cupboards, doors, windows. Over the past 4-5 years, the work reduced and I used to earn just Rs 4,000- Rs 5,000 a month, so I left the job and now I am a driver.”
Architect and nominated councillor for the Chandigarh municipal corporation Surinder Bahga acknowledges the slump in the market and said, “Labourers will continue to be vulnerable as long as the sector is unorganised. There is no uniform governing body to bring plumbers, electricians and painters together and help in transmission of latest technologies. That is where builders end up gaining the foothold.”
“There should be a system where all electricians could come together and devise strategies to be more easily available to customers and learn newer technologies,” Bahga added.
Director, Punjab Technical University, SAS Nagar, Prabhjot Kaur says no attention is being paid to impart hands-on skill training to these workers. “While labourers learn from their master slowly, technology is developing at a faster pace. The builder, who is better connected to these changes, is able to provide the same services more efficiently. This disparaging gap between the builders and labourers needs to be equalised, for which the government has to step in.”