Migrant workers from Hyderabad may have suffered nightmarish journeys in their bid to escape the lockdown and return to their homes in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand. But many of them are all set to return, and in style.
Pushed into a corner by approaching deadlines and a skeletal workforce, many desperate builders are now booking air and AC train tickets for labourers in the hope of luring them back to their sites. The average cost per head for air tickets is Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000.
So, jet-setting into Hyderabad are carpenters, painters, granite workers and scaffolding experts primarily from Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. They comprise 40% to 50% of the city’s labour strength. The rest come from UP, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
“These are desperate times and we need to invest in bringing workers back to the city. We have told our contractors to book flights, as long as the fares are less than Rs 5,000,” said R Suresh Kumar, senior vice-president (business operations), of Prestige Group (Hyderabad) that has three ongoing projects in the city.
The Bengaluru-based group has a team of 10 carpenters flying into the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport from Patna on June 6. “There will be similar batches coming in subsequently,” Kumar added, ruing how he has just about 700 labourers on the ground against a usual strength of 3,000.
As on Wednesday, a one-way ticket from Patna to Hyderabad was pegged at about Rs 4,900.
“There are a few construction firms that are looking at flight options. It is mostly to bring in workers from Bihar and Bengal,” said a contractor manning one of Hyderabad’s largest labour camps housing over 2,500 workers. The workers here are employed with multiple developers. “Right now, only 10% to 15% of them are left. We have to give some incentives for them to return. Developers have no choice but to spend,” he added.
If some are using air tickets to sweeten the deal, there are others who are gift-wrapping a hefty advance along with AC train tickets — about Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,000 per seat — to win over the migrant workers. “We are offering up to Rs 10,000 in advance, over and above their travel fare. This month, we have booked tickets for at least 300 labourers,” said Tapas Patel, CEO of Om Sree Builders and Developers.
Roughly 1.5 lakh migrant labourers — a majority from the realty sector — have returned to their home states since the lockdown.