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Daily wagers worst hit by construction ban

By Sonali Verma
PUBLISHED ON NOV 29, 2019 09:29 PM IST

Gurugram The ban on construction in the national capital region (NCR), enforced on November 5 until further orders of the Supreme Court, has left many workers in Gurugram without an income. Manual workers, who gather at the Labour Chowk on Gurgaon-Faridabad Road every morning, said a full day’s work at a construction site is no longer coming their way, making it tougher to earn a livelihood.

“It has already been difficult to find work over the last few months. Until a few weeks ago, we would get jobs at construction sites that would pay 500 per day. Now, most of the work we’re getting is short and quick, and doesn’t pay even half that,” said Kishore Prakash, 32.

Prakash, unaware of the ban, blamed the lack of work to ‘downfall in the market’. “The work I have been getting these few days is of a porter and pays by the hour. Other days, I just sit and wait here to no avail,” he said.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), earlier this month, noted that “daily-wage workers who depend on construction sites to make a living are the worst sufferers of the ban on construction activities as they have been rendered jobless”. It recommended to the Centre that a stipend or compensation be given to daily wage workers, who have been rendered unemployed.

However, officials of the district labour department said they haven’t received any notification about the stipend or compensation to be paid to the workers. “No such guideline has been received from the Centre,” said an official, requesting anonymity.

Gurugram, a city marked by frantic construction, is home to lakhs of migrant workers, many of who do manual work, such as digging earth, laying bricks and carrying heavy loads of construction material on sites. Most relocate here from northern states in search of work.

Several men at the Labour Chowk said they have decided to return home if the situation doesn’t improve. Daulat Kumar, who is a construction worker but has been cleaning drains in the city’s upscale colonies, said he plans to go back to Gopalganj in Bihar, his native place, next month. “This was not the work I came here for. Others from my home town left just last week,” he said.

Workers said that earlier, at least six private contractors would visit the chowk every day and a few hundred people managed to get work. The work would usually be on the outskirts of the city on large plots of land. Now, it is mostly in small areas and houses and needs only a couple of people.

“A large number of the 2,000-odd people who come and stand at the chowk go back without work daily,” said another daily wage worker.

The definition of ‘construction activities’, however, is not clearly defined under the order, said S Narayanan, member secretary, Haryana State Pollution Control Board. “But large scale activities that lead to dust and pollution are banned. Small scale work that doesn’t lead to high pollution levels is difficult to check,” he said.

To manage high pollution levels in the city, the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority had banned construction activities between 6 pm and 6 am on October 26. The ban was extended till 10 am on October 31. The Supreme Court, on November 5, then ordered a blanket ban in NCR.

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