Builders are in a wait-and-watch mode, having sensed indications that some kind of lockdown is imminent after the Pongal festival to contain the spread of the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
The builders seem to have taken note of the Health Department’s caution against the ‘extremely’ infectious Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. On their part, the district administrations and the health department are pushing for rigid compliance with the prevention measures: wearing face masks, and maintaining social distancing.
The builders are not discounting the possibility for 50% seating in buses and trains, in the weeks to come. “For now, there is no cause for concern as the buses and trains are being operated to full capacity. Stoppage or curtailment of the transport services will, no doubt, cause a slowdown in the construction activities,” Ravichandran, a building contractor, said.
Builders are hopeful about continuity of train services since a bulk of construction workers travel to the city and suburbs from Manapparai and other rural parts with season tickets. Bus fares are unaffordable on a daily basis for a good number of construction workers who have to be paid not less than ₹400 a day. The daily wage for masons is in the range of ₹900.
Cost of materials
The situation for the builders, in fact, turned far from conducive due to the escalation in the cost of construction materials during the pandemic period. The only solace now is the reduction in the cost of cement by ₹50 per bag.
Notwithstanding the unfavourable factors, the builders are at present midway through projects they had initiated after the lockdown restrictions were eased.
Fortunately for the builders in Tiruchi region, there has been a steady patronage from Non-Resident Indians settled in Singapore and Malaysia, despite the pandemic factor. There seems to be a trend among this section of customers to invest in properties that yield steady rental income, Shanmugam, a real estate agent, said.
Yet, incorporation of ‘cost escalation clause’ in agreements between the builders and customers is a rarity. Due to this, the builders end up getting lower margins.