Developed By: iNFOTYKE
SHILLONG: With a number of NGOs apprehending labourers who are often branded as illegal migrants as they do not possess necessary documents to prove their identity, developmental activities such as construction works have taken a big hit.
The frequent driving away of labourers has irked the local contractors since the works are delayed which has also made it difficult for them to venture into further projects thereby affecting their livelihood.
Talking to The Shillong Times, an official with the Public Works Department (PWD) said that the construction works took a back seat after the protests over contentious issues of National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Developmental works have been delayed.
The CAA had prompted people to demonstrate in the streets and the apprehension surrounding NRC fall-out gave the NGOs an opportunity to conduct checking of labour licenses in construction sites.
The PWD official admitted that the implementation of NRC and the protests over CAA have affected the construction works of the department.
Stating that there are major works like the construction of the Assembly building at Mawdiangdiang and Teachers Training Center (TTC) at Malki, the official said that there are major projects and the department has instructed contractors to arrange labour license.
“Last year, there were disturbances by NGOs and it has badly affected the progress of works. TTC training is part of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funding and it should have been completed in February as the project gets over in March”, the official said adding that the construction work has resumed.
The official said that there are also construction works in Jaiaw for ADB projects and for this, the local labourers are being called.
“The Assembly building construction at Mawdiangdiang is a prestigious project of the state. Had it not been for the intermissions due to the agitations, the building would have been handed over by December 2021”, the official said.
However, the official informed that the labourers have resumed their work presently although they briefly stopped during agitations.
“These labourers are in possession of trading license. The department has requested the contractors to not allow anyone without proper papers and the department will not encourage such labourers”, he said.
Similarly, the road construction was also affected as according to the official, the NGOs chased the labourers away.
Local contractors soft targets
The local contractors in the state informed that they are soft targets of the NGOs who check the labour licenses.
Due to this, developmental works are stalled affecting the progress of the projects.
With the contractual works being time bound, driving away the labourers is a huge setback to the contractors.
They also expressed concern over the frequent drive conducted by NGOs to apprehend and chase away labourers asserting that it has affected their livelihood.
They told this reporter, “It has affected us. Many of the contractors back off from bidding for tender floated by the government”.
Another contractor said though the contractors have arranged labour license, there are groups who claim to be non-government organisations (NGOs) who tear the license and chase the labourers away.
The local contractors questioned as to why the NGOs were silent when the hawkers (who like the contractors earn a livelihood) confronted the authorities. Similarly, no action is being taken against house owners who rent homes to outsiders even without proper checking.
“The hawkers get checked and they confront the authorities, but the labourers would not confront the NGOs and would move away. And what about the house owners who rent their homes to outsiders, nobody checks them? The labourers stay at the work site and leave when the work is done, besides they do not bring along their families whereas the ones who stay at people’s homes bring their families with them. What about the Dorbar Shnong as it appears that there is no one to keep a tab on this”, a local contractor said.
The contractors said that the local labourers are unable to do specialised works such as retro-fitting, installation of lifts, tile works and others.
“There is shortage of skilled local manpower in specialized works. Even the works that require an architect, the local labourers cannot do”, they said.
Another contractor said that developmental works have created employment to a large number of unemployed youth in the state. They feel that developmental activities are to be carried out by local contractors to prevent outsiders from working in the state.
“As contractors, we will welcome if local labourers come to work but what about the specialised works?” a contractor remarked.
The contractors also questioned on what ground the NGOs categorise illegal migrants and inter-state labourers.
“We also love the jaitbynriew. We are working on different contractual works within the parameters of law”, they said.
As for the local labourers, he said that there is a need for quality work as the local labourers need to improve on their work culture. The output of the local labourers is very less.
On the other hand, the local contractors have come up with a proposal to meet the state government and the NGOs so that an agreement can be made by the contractors with the labourers. The contractors will register with the police station and if the labourers run away to another contractor, an FIR will be filed against the labourers.