As migrant workers leave for home, elevated highway work in Madurai suffers setback

Work on constructing the elevated highway on New Natham Road has resumed after the lockdown, but has slowed down

Work on constructing the elevated highway on New Natham Road has resumed after the lockdown, but has slowed down   | Photo Credit: G. Moorthy

Of the around 400 migrant workers hired for the project, only 60 have remained in Madurai, with the rest leaving for their hometowns

With many migrant workers going back home following the COVID-19 lockdown, work on constructing the first elevated highway of Madurai district on New Natham Road has suffered a setback.

Out of around 400 migrant workers hired, only 60 have stayed back in Madurai.

The workers, who were kept at the camps by contractors until a few days ago, have started going back to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha after Shramik special train services began in the State.

“Our contractors took care of them very well with food and accommodation. But the workers were swept by fear of COVID-19 and the overall sentiments of people from all over the country, who are going back to their native villages,” said an officer from the National Highways Authority of India.

When the mass movement of migrant workers started across the country, people in Madurai district too wanted to go back home. Many workers said that their family members were concerned about their well being and wanted them back home. The workers were confident of finding jobs in agriculture back at home with the farming season likely to start soon in many States.

The migrant workers were preferred by contractors as they would work for longer hours and their speed of work.

“Being residential workers, they would start their work early in the morning. They would not complain even if they had to work in late nights,” said an engineer. The workers being offered piece-rate salary would work eagerly to earn more.

They had their role in casting of concrete segments and movement of those segments from the casting site to the work site.

“Though all those skilled workers involved in various work process are still available, the lack of these unskilled workers is slowing down the work,” said NHAI Project Director, Saravanan.

While over 40 days of work were lost in lockdown, on resumption, the work -- envisaging construction of the elevated highway for 7.3 km on the New Natham Road -- has not gained the usual momentum in the last month due to the lack of migrant workers.

Migrant workers are expected to return only after normality returns, upon the complete lifting of lockdown and resumption of train services.

“Meanwhile, the Centre has sought our workforce requirement. We are hopeful of getting some more strength by pooling in the available manpower resources in the neighbourhood,” Mr. Saravanan said.

While over 40% work of elevated highway has been completed, around 60% of the road-widening work for 29 km has been completed so far.

The work was originally scheduled to be completed by November 2020.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 12:56:06 AM |

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