Realty suffers in MMR as only 40% sites begin work
Real estate sector in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) continues to totter as work has started in hardly 40% of the construction sites.
Acute labour shortage and monetary crises are cited as the reasons for the same. According to real estate firm Liases Foras, work has started in around 4,200 of the total 10,500 sites in MMR. “Even in these 4,200 sites, there is no significant work going on in majority of them,” said the firm’s managing director, Pankaj Kapoor. He said work has started in full swing in just 10% of the total sites.
Kapoor has a point, and it can be illustrated in the state of affairs of Prajapati Group. Of its three projects, two _ one in Dronagiri and the other in New Panvel _ have started. In case of the Dronagiri project, there are four labourers on the site instead of 70 in the pre-COVID-19 days while on the New Panvel site, there are just eight people working instead of the required 80.
Rajesh Prajapati, committee member, CREDAI-Maharashtra Chambers of Housing Industry (MCHI) and managing director, Prajapati Group, blames lack of transport facilities for this impasse. “MMR depends on migrant labour and though they want to come back, they are unable to do so because of lack of trains,” said Prajapati. “The Government, under its easing of lockdown, needs to arrange travel facilities,” he added.
The Builders Association of India (BAI) says these are gloomy days for the realty sector. “There are no sales taking place and hence, builders have no funds to execute their projects. We are doing our best to raise money by other means,” said Anand Gupta, chairman, (Housing and Rera Committee), BAI.
The real estate sector has been battered by the slowdown over the past few years and Covid-19 has only aggravated the situation. The last four months were marred by few launches and fewer sales.
Airline tickets, higher wages, medical insurance, weekly doctor visits are some of the perks Mumbai’s real estate companies began offering in July to the hundreds of thousands of construction workers who left the city in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak and the ensuing lockdown.
The sops are meant to entice the workers back from states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha so that construction can resume on projects stuck for lack of labour.
According to the MCHI, the apex industry body in the MMR, close to 700,000 of the 900,000 on-site real estate workforce returned to their home towns after as Mumbai emerged as the country’s worst-affected Covid-19 hot spot in April.
“There are hardly 200,000 on-site workers left in Mumbai, and a majority of the projects are in limbo. We desperately need to start work and hence we are trying all means possible to bring them back,” said Rajesh Prajapati.
“The workers are not ready to come back fearing infection and also due to family pressure. We are assuring them that we will take good care of them, and offer them the best of the facilities, such as Covid-19 insurance as well as weekly visits by doctors.”
On June 8, the Maharashtra government allowed private construction activity to restart, but builders said they have been facing an acute shortage of workers, and that they are left with no option but to try and tempt them back with flight tickets, enhanced wages, boarding facilities and medical insurance, in addition to weekly medical check-ups.
The Avighna Group – best known for constructing high-rises in the erstwhile mills cluster in central Mumbai – arranged flight tickets for 88 workers from West Bengal for its new project in south Mumbai’s Worli area. “Work is delayed by six months due to the pandemic, and we cannot afford more setbacks. This forced us to arrange flight tickets as well as offer 25% extra wages for our workers,” said group managing director Nishant Agrawal.