Strict Covid-19 Curbs Haven’t Stalled Construction In Mumbai This Time
Workers gather round an excavated ditch at a construction site in the Parel area of Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Strict Covid-19 Curbs Haven’t Stalled Construction In Mumbai This Time

Despite strict restrictions in Maharashtra to contain the Covid-19 surge, developers said construction hasn’t stopped this time in Mumbai and its surrounding region.

That’s because the state allowed workers to live on site. While some small developers without ability to house workers are facing problems, their bigger peers have managed to keep the work going.

All developers said their sites follow Covid-19 measures including sanitisation, staff rotation, medical consultation and tests, if required. Developers’ lobby Credai-MCHI has also advised members to follow pandemic protocols. According to its assessment, 20,000-plus workers are at various sites.

Costs incurred on testing and other arrangements are not significant, developers told BloombergQuint. But they will review the situation as it evolves.

Here’s what developers had to say:

At most sites, labour used to get food from a central kitchen, which followed Covid-19 related safety measures, said Niranjan Hiranandani, national president at developers’ lobby, Naredco; and chairman at Hiranandani Group. In such instances, he said, there is no change and no additional expenditure.

There are a few sites where the contractor used to handle meals. Wherever the contractor faces challenges, the developer steps in and ensures workers are given proper food at the site, he said.

“Last year, when some people migrated back to their villages, developers faced a major challenge in getting replacements,” Hiranandani said. “This time, if there is any additional expenditure on this account, it is taken as something necessary to ensure there is no need to find a replacement for required skill sets on the construction site.”

According to Hiranandani, around 85-90% of the construction workers are on site, while the rest have migrated due to the annual harvest season irrespective of the lockdown.

Rajesh Prajapati, managing director at Mumbai-based Parjapati Constructions, said all sites are operational with 90-95% worker capacity.

Godrej Properties Ltd.’s construction sites are operating at 70-75% capacity, according to Anubhav Gupta, chief CSR and sustainability officer at the company. “A lot of our labourers are choosing to stay.”

Workers were leaving earlier as the situation in Maharashtra “was bad”, according to Gupta. But now with things taking a turn for the worse in the north, especially Delhi-National Capital Region, families are telling workers that “if things are safe where you are, why don’t you stay put because this is probably not the time to move”.

Gupta said Godrej Properties is also trying to get all its construction workers registered for appropriate government schemes and is also “pulling in our CSR money for Covid relief”.

Lodha Group declined to comment citing unavailability of the spokesperson, while Oberoi Group has yet to respond to BloombergQuint’s queries.

Developers, however, agree that it’s too early to predict long-term impact. “This time we are better prepared than the last time and are following all the protocols," Bhushan Nemlekar, director at Sumit Woods Ltd., said. The company said it has bought Covid insurance for all construction workers and incurred additional costs stemming from the pandemic. “If this is a short-term thing the impact is not going to be much but if it goes on for three-four months, definitely the cost is going to go up.”

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