Capturing the State of Construction Workers

Understanding and suggesting improvements to the life and working conditions of construction workers in India.

The Indian construction industry is the second largest employer in the country after agriculture, in addition to the direct and indirect jobs it creates. Low skilled workers are relied on in large numbers in this sector and often accompanied with exploitation, income insecurity, violation of rights and absence of legal protection, despite the growth of the sector itself. In 2020, Covid-19 and its ensuing consequences laid bare the vulnerability of construction workers as well as other informal sector workers. This is despite the fact that Government, Private sector and several civil society organisations have taken measures to improve the working and living conditions of informal workers. However, a glaring absence is the lack of a unified repository at the national level that can provide a perspective on the state of construction workers in India. Such a knowledge portal could be a repository of policies, action research, best practices that can facilitate further action. This proposed action research (2021-ongoing) is to capture the state of construction workers and develop a one-stop knowledge portal to be made available in the public domain. 

The meeting highlighted that only a small number of construction workers had returned to work (about 50 percent) in the cities; the abrupt decision to impose the  lockdown has had adverse impacts on the workers and the employers both; workers wanting to return faced many obstacles , in the villages and the cities and as a result work uptake in the construction sector was  slow. Labour contractors were bearing higher expenses and more labour management compared to earlier. As workers were coming back to the sites, contractors have had to ensure safe and  improved working conditions on the sites. .

The INHAF effort—possibly the first in the urban sector in the country and the only one—is
a) to highlight the need for and the virtue of the bottom-up way of defining and measuring poverty, a subject of national concern and development planning and action ( the poor who live poverty are well equipped to define it )
b) to develop and demonstrate a participatory, consultative and community engaging methodology in doing so
c) to contribute to demystification of the poverty line, at the top and the bottom, at the government and the city slum level
d) to highlight the known deficiencies and inadequacies of the existing definition and the measuring method—the uni-dimensional, nutrition-based poverty line—to ascertain that poverty is a multifaceted and a multidimensional phenomenon.

Pune has several dynamic unions and organizations of the hard working urban poor who are sensitive to the impact that poverty line has on their entitlements, benefits and development. With these member-based unions and organizations of the poor as partners, INHAF is piloting Poor Defining Poverty Line Initiative in Pune.

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