A group of migrant contract workers resorted to vandalism on Sunday (May 3), demanding their wages for March and April from the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation (BMRCL) and the URC Construction. The incident occurred in the evening at a construction site in the city’s Bommanahalli area.
The workers allegedly broke window panes of vehicles belonging to BMCRL, prompting the police to resort to lathi charge. Around 900 workers were present at the site. At least seven migrants workers who The Federal spoke to, said payments are due for 2-3 months. Some said they were not paid wages for April and half of March. Few others claimed they were not paid in February as well.
One of the workers said about 500-600 workers are ready to leave for home, and out of them, around 400 belong to Jharkhand.
For instance, G S Enterprises, a Namakkal, Tamil Nadu based company which has sub-contracted from URC construction to provide concrete transport vehicles for BMRCL’s metro project, owes nearly ₹1.35 lakh to at least three workers at the project site. URC Construction is in a joint venture with the BMRCL to build the metro rail in the city.
One of the workers, Sunny Kumar from Jharkhand, who works as a driver for the concrete transport vehicles said that the company owes him ₹55,000, i.e., ₹17,000 monthly salary for February to April, plus overtime charges of ₹ 4000. The company owed the same amount to another worker Rustam Ali, and ₹25,000 to a helper, Irfan.
While the BMRCL Chief PRO BL Yeshwanth Chavan had earlier claimed that all workers had already been paid, The Federal spoke to G S Enteprises proprietor who confirmed that the workers have not been paid.
Elango Shanmugam of GS Entreprises told The Federal that he may not know the total amount and the total number of workers the company owes money, but agrees that some are not paid since February. Elango cited administrative reasons for the delay.
“Our admin staff who generate the payrolls are not able to travel to the project site due to lockdown. So all the accounting work is pending and hence the delay,” Shanmugam said.
“We will resume our work soon after the lockdown is lifted and ensure that they are paid.”
At a time when the state government has been arranging buses and trains for transporting stranded migrants to their home states, many at the BMRCL working site are anxious to go home.
Another worker Anil Gupta from Jharkhand who works as a supervisor of URC constructions said that his salary of two months amounting to ₹40,000 was due from the company. However, Gupta said after the vandalism broke out and the news spread, the contractor (Satrajan, one of the incharge) assured them of clearing the payment by tomorrow.
The workers, who are now willing to return, claim they do not have money to go back to their states and therefore, demand their dues.
By 7 PM, the police brought the situation under control after assuring them that they would coordinate with the labour department to sort the issue.
The police assured the workers that they will be provided with food and other necessities for the next two days, and that they would assess the situation, to make arrangements for those willing to return to their home states.
“The claims that they are running short of food are false. They are eager to go home, for which we are making arrangements,” Assistant Commissioner of Police of Bommanahalli Sudhir M Hegde told The Federal.
“Some have complained that they have not been paid since March. We will raise this issue with the labour department.”
People near the project site alleged that on Saturday one of the BMRCL officials was gheraoed by the workers when he went to convince them not to go back as the work would resume soon. However the migrant workers were angered over their wage dues. But the BMRCL Chief PRO, Chavan, denied the claim.