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They are backbone of new Assembly complex work

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Breaking barriers: Thousands of migrant labourers, particularly from the eastern region, play a major role in the construction industry in Chennai. A scene at the new Assembly complex in Chennai on Thursday.
Breaking barriers: Thousands of migrant labourers, particularly from the eastern region, play a major role in the construction industry in Chennai. A scene at the new Assembly complex in Chennai on Thursday.

Vidya Venkat

CHENNAI: Being part of Chennai’s “Writer’s Building project” has made crane-operator Subhendu Das a proud man. For someone who has done odd jobs at construction sites all his life, this man from Ganga Sagar in 24 Parganas district of West Bengal is happy to be part of a grand project such as the new Legislative Assembly cmplex in Chennai.

Subhendu is among the 2,000-plus workers who have been engaged at the new assembly complex construction site.

They are working on Block A of the complex, which comprises an Assembly Hall and chamber for Ministers and slated for completion in March next year. The workers are mostly drawn from eastern States such as Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar. Some of the workers are also from Andhra Pradesh.

The masons, carpenters, fitters and mechanics work on eight-hour shifts. Some workers pointed out that though temporary shelters had been provided for their stay, water for drinking and bathing was in short supply. Though engineers at the site have been provided a kitchen, such a facility has not been extended to the workers.

Some of the masons on site said they were paid Rs.2,400 a month after the ‘maistry’ engaging them took his commission. A labourer from Ganjam district, Orissa, says that this pay is much lesser than what he earned at the textile mills in Surat earlier.

“As job opportunities in traditional textile mills are dwindling, workers are shifting to large construction sites such as this in the hope of making more money,” he adds.

Hindi works as the link language between supervisors and workers. Officials of East Coast Constructions and Industries Ltd., which has been awarded the project contract, say that they appointed officials with a working knowledge of Hindi to manage the work here.

The company officials also highlighted the fact that safety of workers had been given utmost priority. “We have completed 35-lakh man hours and the project has been accident-free,” an official in charge of safety says proudly.

Till March next year most of the present batch of workers will remain at the site, company officials say. After that it will mostly be finishing work such as embellishments on the roof and so on, for which only a few highly skilled workers will be engaged.

Tenders are being finalised for the work on next phase of the complex.

As for the masons and mechanics at the site now, they would move over to some other site, making buildings for posterity to remember.

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