Buildings, building construction: India

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The construction sector/ ‘industry’

1999=2019: up and then down

August 13, 2019: The Times of India

Why Construction Jobs Are Fading

The sector boomed in the last two decades, absorbing unskilled workers who fled the farming crisis. It has stalled in the last six years, and demonetisation also dealt it a blow. There are now fewer jobs, and construction workers have nowhere to go, writes Amulya Gopalakrishnan

After nearly four decades in construction work, 62-year-old Babu Lal has a bleak, philosophical view of the business. A raj mistri (expert mason) in Dwarka, he has been working in Delhi since 1981, and has seen the industry blaze with activity over the 1990s and 2000s, sputter and then cool. “Pehle kaam zyaada tha, aadmi kam. Today, there is a crush of workers, less work, and unemployment everywhere,” he says.

“It was poverty that drove many of us here to this job. The mazdoori began when the water started drying up,” he says. Construction has been the leading job-creator in the last couple of decades, absorbing people who fled thankless farming jobs. Construction jobs had surged several times over a decade ago — from only 17 million in 1999-2000 to 25.6 million in 2004-05 and 50.3 million in 2011-12. It became a bigger part of the jobs pie — from claiming 3.2% of the workforce in 1983 to 10.6% in 2011-12. In those boom years, out of every five non-farm workers, one worked in construction.

That story has stalled in the years since. The latest periodic labour force survey shows the growth rate is sharply down, and the sector remains stagnant with 54.3 million jobs in 2017-18, says economist Ravi Srivastava, who has studied the sector. In the last six years, barely four million jobs have been added despite all the public investment in toilets and homes. Private investment has clearly slumped.

“This has implications for manual unskilled labourers who are deeply distressed in agriculture, but have nowhere to go. Earlier, those leaving farming got jobs in construction: their wages rose, consumption rose, and poverty fell. Now, the real wage rate has collapsed for both regular and casual workers,” says economist Santosh Mehrotra.

Demonetisation struck a sharp blow to construction and real estate, affecting the number and pace of projects. “I was out of work for months. Kaam abhi bhi dheela chal raha hai,” says Banwari Lal, a mason, as he smooths out a window ledge in a house he is building. “Sometimes I work 15 days, sometimes 20, sometimes it’s hard to find work — there is no certainty.” Smaller projects, like standalone homes, are better paid than big corporate buildings, but require only a few weeks of work, while the big ones offer a full month of work, with less money. Men usually get between Rs 300 and Rs 500 for a day’s work, while women get Rs 250 for the same work. Married couples often work in pairs, in small projects. Women are confined to unskilled work like mixing masala, carrying loads back and forth, while men can do masonry, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work, which pay better.

At a large project site in Gurgaon, some women say they would like to learn too, and talk of a woman from Bilaspur who did, remarkably enough, become a mason. Women’s unskilled work is also the first to be replaced: “Now, there are machines to make the masala, so they don’t need us to do it,” says Ram Devi, a young woman from Harpalpur, Madhya Pradesh. Many of the more large-scale, mechanised building projects don’t even employ women any more.

Many workers progress on the job. Lala Ram, from Alwar, had started out with beldari, but soon moved on to painting. He watched others, taught himself through online videos. “First I learnt roller painting, then ‘texture’, for which people pay more — 1,000, 1,500, even 10,000,” he says. Usually, specialisations are related to criss-crossing networks of caste, region and ethnicity, says Srivastava. To learn on the job and climb the skill ladder, you need someone to teach you, let you in. It’s not as easy for people from scheduled castes to move up this way, he says.

Things are more difficult for migrant workers who go from project to project, living in camps on the site, or on urban outskirts. There is a chain of contractors, sub-contractors and sardars who either bring them in. Usually, the thekedar is known to the workers, often they pay an advance to their families. Given this itinerant life, too many children are kept out of school, says Sunita of Mobile Creches, an NGO that provides daycare for construction workers. There has been an array of laws that applies to these jobs; the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996, mandated welfare boards to look into safety, insurance, children’s education, medical and maternity benefits and so on, to be covered through a cess levied on employers. In 2006, the Supreme Court started monitoring its implementation. In Dwarka, Sunita Sharma of the Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangh, which started in 2005, is helping renew registrations, and women trickle in now and then, for help with papers, to access their entitlements.

But the Centre’s new labour code is set to subsume this system. Unions are jittery about the lack of clarity on safety, and the fact that workers will have to contribute towards their own social security, rather than employers doing so through a cess. “Construction workers do not have regular work through the month and cannot afford to pay 12.5% of their monthly earnings for welfare,” says Subhash Bhatnagar of the Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangh. What’s more, he says, 4-crore-plus workers have registered under the 36 welfare boards. “If these are dismantled and a new system is set up, then these benefits will be set back by another decade or so.”

Unions are effective only in a few states and localities — and they are actively discouraged by bigger companies and contractors. “There is such a hunger for jobs, that if you hold out and say you want a full Rs 500 as mandated, they will just get someone else who is willing to work for Rs 400,” says Babu Lal.

Even the settled workers are finding it harder to get by these days. “Earlier, Rs 100 would mean we could eat and drink and still have some money left over, now that isn’t possible. Even Rs 1,000 means less now. There isn’t enough to make ends meet, to pay rent and cooking gas and food,” says Sampat Ram, a carpenter. Some of them don’t have a choice but to work “jab tak haath pair chalein”, they say, describing a woman over 65, a widow who had no choice but to carry on with hard labour at the site.

“I don’t like being covered in dhool-mitti, staying dirty all day. But it’s a job, and in the evening no one really hates their life,” says Lala Ram. He and his friends swear by the restorative properties of gur (jaggery) which, they say, clears the throat and chest of dust particles. And that way, even hard days have some sweetness in them.

Liabilities of the builders


Builders can’t make approvals an excuse: NCDRC, 2018

Dipak Dash, Builders can’t give excuse of approvals & delay flats: NCDRC, December 14, 2018: The Times of India

DLF Asked To Pay ₹1Lakh/Annum For Not Meeting Deadline

A builder can’t hide behind the excuses of not getting approvals from authorities, hurdles in land acquisition or any other difficulty, for delay in delivery of flats to homebuyers, the apex consumer commission has ordered.

While directing a subsidiary of real estate major DLF to hand over houses to 16 flat buyers in one of its projects in Panchkula, Haryana, a twomember bench of National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) comprising Dinesh Singh and Dr S M Kantikar has directed the company to pay compensation of Rs 1 lakh per annum for delay and interest (home loan interest rate by banks) on the payment the buyers have already made to the builder, which will be applicable from February 2014. The builder had assured to hand over the flats by the “promised date”.

It has also directed the builder to complete the registration of sale-deeds and asked homebuyers to pay for expenses of the registration.

According to the order, which will have larger implications across the country, DLF Homes Punchkula Pvt Ltd has been directed to give the details of structural drawings and plans relating to construction, electrical, plumbing and sanitation works to the flat buyer so that he/she does not have to depend on the builder in case of any need for maintenance or repair.

The builder has been asked to pay Rs 1 lakh each to the buyers for cost of litigation. The bench observed that the builder was responsible for deficiency in service and for unfair trade practice. The NCDRC has directed DLF to deposit Rs 25,000 in each case in the Consumer Legal Aid Account of the state commission for its unfair trade practice.

“The issue involved is subjudice and we are taking legal opinion for further recourse,” a DLF spokesperson said.

The bench set four weeks for compliance. The NCDRC order came while hearing an appeal by DLF challenging the decision of Haryana state consumer commission. One D S Dhanda had booked a flat in March 2010 and the builder had signed an agreement with Dhanda in February 2011 to deliver the flat in 2013. But the deadline was extended to February 2014 due to a Supreme Court order. The bench also said cost and time overruns are builder’s responsibility and not of the consumer.


2018, Maharashtra: Architects liable for flaws

Clara Lewis, Architects to be liable for bldg flaws, March 8, 2018: The Times of India

Architects and other professionals associated with building construction will be held liable for structural flaws in a building for 10 years from the date of issue of completion certificate.

The state urban development department said liability is being fixed as the World Bank, in its observations in its report ‘Doing Business, 2017’ “marked high importance to the provision of latent defect liability period in quality control index and Mumbai’s Development Control Regulations do not provide for it.

The notification holding architects, license surveyor, structural engineer, site supervisor/ engineer, construction company including contractor, sub-contractor, consultants appointed for various activities responsible for structural defects was issued. The notification said it will be applicable for buildings with a built-up-area 750 sq metres and above for 10 years from the date of granting an OC. They will not be liable only in case of natural calamities and damage due to war and riots.

Incomplete projects

Builder must pay RWA

AmitAnand Choudhary, Sep 29, 2021: The Times of India

Builders cannot get away by handing over maintenance and administration of a housing society to the residents’ welfare association if the project remains unfinished without all infrastructure and facilities promised to the homebuyers and will need to compensate the RWAs, the Supreme Court said.

Almost 18 years after a builder handed over a housing project in Noida to the residents’ association, a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian directed the company, Padmini Infrastructure, to pay Rs 60 lakh to the Royal Garden RWA for not building a water softening plant, a second health club and a swimming pool in addition to putting in place a firefighting system.

SC order brings 18-yr-old legal fight between builder & RWA to an end

The order will be a boost for homebuyers, even though more recent state RERA laws cover some of the aspects relating to defaults on promised facilities. Such disputes between RWAs and builders continue to clog courts and consumer forums.

The real estate company constructed the housing project with 282 apartments and possession was given from 1998-2001. The purchasers formed an RWA and got it registered in 2003 under the Societies Registration Act. The RWA entered into an agreement on November 2003 with the builder for taking over maintenance of the apartment complex.

As the builder didn’t fulfil promises made in the agreement, the RWA approached the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission which appointed a local commissioner to visit the site and file a report. On the basis of the report, NCDRC allowed the plea of the association. The company thereafter moved the SC, which had in an interim order in 2010 stayed the order of the consumer commission but directed the company to deposit Rs 60 lakh in its registry.

A decade after entertaining the petition, the court directed that the sum be handed over to the association and brought the 18-year-old legal fight to an end. The court turned down the plea of the company that the association was barred by limitation to raise grievances and passed the order by accepting the report of the local commissioner. Observing that the association was handed over maintenance of the housing society 18 years ago, the court said it might not not be possible to compel the builder to make those facilities or systems fully operational now.

Low cost/ quick- to- build housing, buildings

Reinforced thermocol  house in TN/ 2018

Ram Sundaram & Sindhu Kannan, How TN govt built a house using reinforced thermocol in 40 days, October 18, 2018: The Times of India

A wo-floor modular structure adjacent to the police officers’ mess in Egmore, Tamil Nadu
From: Ram Sundaram & Sindhu Kannan, How TN govt built a house using reinforced thermocol in 40 days, October 18, 2018: The Times of India

Can Endure Earthquakes, Costs 30% Less Than Regular Buildings

A two-floor structure adjacent to the police officers’ mess in Egmore may not attract your attention, but did you know it is made of thermocol? No, it’s not an art installation promoting recycling, but a house the Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation (TNPHC) has built in 40 days. It is the government’s first ‘modular panel’ structure constructed using reinforced thermocol panels instead of bricks.

The building cost ₹15 lakh, which is 30% less than what is spent using conventional construction methods. The technology involves manufacturing of individual modules or panels at an offsite facility and then assembling them at the building site, said Reddy Udaybaskar from Beardsell Limited which has taken up similar projects for Karnataka, IIT-Jammu and Indian Railways. “Unlike conventional buildings, the load is evenly distributed in modular buildings. Also, the entire weight is 25% less thereby eliminating the need for columns and beams,” he said.

Construction for the building began in February 2017 when the realty sector was hit hard by shortage of sand. M Kumar, chief engineer, TNPHC, said soon after the foundation was laid, vertical panels were erected as per the building plan alongside scaffolding and edge confinement work. Subsequently, the floor and roof panels were erected parallel to the ground and were coated with concrete.

Within a week, a team of eight workers supervised by two engineers laid the concrete roof and arranged slabs to enable construction on the first floor. After 20 days, the plastering work began. Inner wall putty work, partition, plumbing, electronthick, but walls of the modular structure are 125mm-130mm thick leaving more carpet area for the users, Kumar said. Since thermocol is an insulator, the room remains cool during summers and vice-versa, said engineers involved in the project. Kumar said the building is flame-retardant and resistant to earthquakes and drilling.

On the flip side, alteration work cannot be carried out in the last minute. This means the position of fans, lights, and kitchen and bathroom accessories cannot be changed once the individual thermocol panels are assembled. Also, columns and beams become inevitable in case of multi-storeyed buildings. “The technology has become popular but is yet find takers in Tamil Nadu where most see thermocol as a packing material. Very few consider that thermocol is reinforced with high tensile steel for this project,” Reddy said.

Records related to buildings

Kolkata’s 65 floor, 268m ‘The 42’ India’s tallest/ 2019

Subhro Niyogi, April 16, 2019: The Times of India

When the roof of the 65th floor was cast at 42 Chowringhee (JN Road) earlier this month, it became the tallest building in India, pipping The Imperial in south Mumbai’s Tardeo. Overlooking the Maidan and the Hooghly river beyond, The 42 has reshaped Kolkata’s skyline, dwarfing buildings like Tata Centre, Chatterjee International and Everest House that had dominated the skyline for over five decades.

“The construction of The 42 has been completed. At 268 metres, it is now the tallest building in India. It would have been the second-tallest had the additional four floors that were later sanctioned not been constructed,” pointed out A N Shroff of Alcove Realty, one of the three companies that formed a consortium to develop the ultra-premium residential project

The next tallest in Kolkata is Urbana. At 167.6 metres, it is almost 100m short. Forum Amotsphere and Westin at 152m and 150m respectively, make up the list of buildings that are over 150m tall. Thereafter, it gets rather crowded with 13 buildings taller than 100m. They include South City, ITC Royal Bengal and Acropolis.

The skyline behind Science City off EM Bypass is also changing dramatically with a cluster of three high profile projects — two residential and one commercial — in various stages of development.

The Atmosphere, the 140-m highrise with a hanging deck between the twin towers that houses the club house, has already received the completion certificate from Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). Initially planned till 36 levels, it was later raised to 38 levels (ground+37) after KMC allowed additional floor area to buildings being constructed on Metro rail corridors.

“The structure is complete. Interior work is underway. Deya — the multi-level hanging club spread across 55,000 sq ft — is ready and scaffolding is being dismantled. The project should be complete in six weeks and the first resident is expected to move in around August,” said Rahul Saraf of Forum Projects.

Another high-rise, Ideal Unique Centre — the city’s tallest commercial building — is nearing completion next door. It, too, is growing taller than proposed by four floors to 31. The height of the building is pegged to touch 167 metres when the six-storied crown adorns it. “The building with space to house 104 offices will be completed by March 2020,” said Nakul Himatsingka of Ideal Group.

The third high-rise next to Atmosphere is Trump Tower, the 140-metre, 38-floor building branded after the American President Donald Trump. Of the 28 floors that will be constructed. 29 floors have already been cast. According to the developers, the building will be ready by 2021-2022.

Less than 5km away along the Canal South Road in Beliaghata is Siddha Sky, a 35-storied complex comprising four towers, three of which are linked by a 162-metre terrace skywalk at a height of 113 metre from the ground.

In one of the towers, the slab for the 28th floor has already been cast. Civil work on the other two towers will be completed this year and the skywalk will be visible next year,” said Sanjay Jain of Siddha Group. The project is pegged to be completed in phases over 2021-22.

Harsh Patodia of Unimark Group, the national president elect of Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India, said these new generation tall buildings and branded residences that cater to the aspirational class who want state of the art residences and work places are also redefining Kolkata’s skyline. “New age developments like these will impart an international and global favour to the city,” he added.

Other skyscrapers in Kolkata

Skyscrapers in Kolkata, as in 2019 and those under construction.
From: Subhro Niyogi, April 16, 2019: The Times of India

See graphic:

Skyscrapers in Kolkata, as in 2019 and those under construction.

See also

Real estate: India

Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act (RERA)

Building construction: India

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