French finance agency team visits metro sites

A five-pronged system has been put in place to prevent labour disputes at Kochi metro’s work sites.

This follows a high-level meeting here on Tuesday, at which senior trade union representatives promised their cooperation so that the project could be commissioned as scheduled, in another 993 days.

The meeting was convened in the wake of a sub-contractor refusing to yield to demands by unions to accommodate more workers at a casting yard at Cheranallore, after which piling work was disrupted at Kaloor. Similar issues had held up work earlier too.

Minister for Labour Shibu Baby John told the media that talks with union leaders were “effective”. Steps would be taken to ensure that there was no disruption of work. It was also decided to evolve a system to quantify productivity at each site.

The Regional Joint Labour Commissioner (RJLC) would assess the quantum of work, as the depth and other specifications for piling differed at each site. Another decision was to enable smooth shuffling of workers among worksites and granting of wages fixed for each site, which contractors (and not subcontractors) must ensure.

Moreover, a two-tier system had been evolved to solve disputes, if any. A committee chaired by the Collector, with the RJLC as convener, would strive to solve disputes, failing which a committee comprising Mr. John, Minister for Transport Aryadan Mohammed, KMRL MD Elias George, DMRC officials, and representatives of Central trade unions would strive to bring about a solution. To a question on how labour problems set back metro works by five days, Mr. Mohammed said the contractors and union leaders could easily solve most of the issues.

Mr. George; DMRC’s Kochi project director B Sriram; CPI(M) district secretary Dinesh Mani; CITU president Anathalavattom Anandan; district president of the CITU construction workers union K.V. Manoj; CITU district secretary K.N. Gopinath; and INTUC leaders R. Chandrasekharan and K.P. Haridas were among those who attended the meeting.

Earlier, Mr. George said the KMRL hoped to get a Rs.1,200-crore loan as domestic borrowing at a competitive interest rate.

Earlier in the day, a team of officials from Agence Française de Développement (AFD), a French finance agency, visited prominent sites along the metro’s Aluva- MG Road- Pettah alignment as part of their final appraisal mission. The KMRL had approached the agency for external funding. During their stay till Thursday, the team will gather details of the project. The delegation includes Alain Ries, head of the transport and energy division (Paris), Xavier Hoang, project manager for Kochi Metro (Paris), and Gautier Kohler, project coordinator (Delhi). The team will hold discussions with KMRL officials and people’s representatives on key areas.

Kochi Metro needs an external borrowing of about Rs.2,170 crore. The French agency has offered a loan of around 150-180 million Euros. The loan has tenure of 20 years and comes with a moratorium of five years. It charges an interest rate of two per cent. French loan conditions generally prescribe procurement policies such as ICB (international competitive bidding). 

On Tuesday, the team visited metro work sites at Pettah, near Kunnara Park, Vytilla Mobility Hub, MG Road, international stadium, Kalamassery, HMT, and Muttom. It discussed issues regarding rehabilitation, environment impact and access to the metro for the elderly and the physically challenged.

More In: Kerala | National | Kochi