Strong Case for Vaccine Priority to Migrant Workforce

Strong Case for Vaccine Priority to Migrant Workforce
Jun 2021 , by , in Interviews

ASSOCHAM, Secretary General, Deepak Sood

With several states easing restrictions on lockdowns, the employment intensive construction industry should witness resumption in operations by the middle of June, though at a curtailed level.

We expect to see resumption at construction sites of roads and residential buildings from June 15, though several states like the national capital have permitted such activities from June 1 with Covid 19 guidelines. It would take about two weeks for the contractors to put together again the material and manpower at the sites after disruptions of about 40 days in major states like Delhi, Maharashtra, UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and Haryana, among others.

The major challenge is bringing back the construction workers, most of whom have gone to their native places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan during the lockdowns. Though steady decline in fresh coronavirus cases should restore confidence of the workforce, ”it would take extra effort to give them a sense of safety. Fast vaccination of the labour force would be a big morale booster for them and their families’.

The ASSOCHAM would urge upon the state governments to place migrant labourers, wanting to return back to big cities, priority in vaccination. ‘We would also urge the Centre to give special vaccine allocations for the construction workers. Not only would it help faster restoration of economic activities in the construction industry employing about 40 million people, but also be a great move towards equity in vaccination. 

Resumption in construction would also kick-start several other industries such as cement, steel, PVC pipes and cables and electricals, the chamber said. ”In fact, the resumption should be facilitated before the onset of the rainy season.

The construction industry was amongst the fastest growing in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020-21, registering an expansion of 14.5 per cent. A large part of the growth was pent up demand. We would expect early resumption in government projects like national highways, expressways, buildings under different flagship schemes. The National Highways Authority of India, like after the first wave, is expected to lead the way again as the second wave loses sting.

However, contractors, especially in the mid-size segments would urgently need working capital support, which must be extended to them by the banks. ‘Banks should also see how SME construction firms can be accommodated in flagship schemes like Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme.

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