Cry for help, in times of Corona: The Seamy Underside of Bangalore’s Construction Boom

An on-the-ground report from One Billion Literates Foundation

We were actually not supposed to be on the field today. The team needed a break after nearly an entire week in the field traversing the terrain and scouring by lane after by lane. But a message last evening said a group of more than 180 construction workers had been abandoned by their builder and were out of food; and there was no way we could ignore a message like that.
So, we loaded up again this morning; two cars – both sagging under the weight of more than a couple of tons of food rations each; and witnessed first-hand the seamy underside of Bangalore’s construction boom. Where we are is a posh set of residential apartments - one block of which has been finished. The others are in various stages of completion. Of the more than 1000 workers employed by the contractor, only about 200 remain. The rest have left – or fled. And probably comprised the tens of thousands who were trudging or finding some means of transport back to their villages. Now neither the contractor nor the builder has turned up for almost two weeks. No pay. No food.
This builder is one of the bigger ones. His family’s massive mansion is a landmark in one of the suburbs, with its high walls and his name proudly displayed in engraved copper outside. But his workers live in horrific conditions in the construction site, in tin sheds that are packed together in filthy conditions. There is a massive area of land which has been excavated for foundation, but now is overgrown with weeds and there is stagnant water from the rains this week; on the precipice of the excavation, are the tin sheds. I make my way gingerly to get a sense of this place and choke at the unseemliness of their living conditions. If the virus doesn’t get them, there is enough here to kill or maim otherwise.

But, their relief knows no bounds. They line up in an orderly manner. And take their share. And the masks.  We distribute 500kg of rations here. Barely enough for ten days. We will need to come back here if the lockdown extends.

There still is a lot to be done. The need continues to be immense. The pain immeasurable. To help One Billion Literates Foundation continue our mission to help populations on the margins stave off hunger and starvation, please donate:

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