Chennai high rises sound like the Tower of Babelnews
Venkatachari Jagannathan
22 December 2006

Chennai: Walk in to any high-rise construction site in Tamil Nadu, and you end up feeling as though you had entered the Tower of Babel. Thanks to the influx of migrant labour, attracted by Chennai's construction boom, and you will hear a Bengali, Bihari, Rajasthani, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam.

What is even more interesting is that Bihari workers, dismissed in their own state for their fabled North Indian laziness, have set the output benchmark in the construction industry.

Says H S Chandrasekhar, CEO, technical, Alliance Infrastructure Projects Pvt Ltd, "Amongst the migrant construction labourers, Biharis are hard working and their output is better than others in the masonary and plastering work."

According to him, gone are the days when construction workers were available in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. "The quality of work and the work culture of the available local labour in these two states is not up to the mark."

Today, labour is brought from states like Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Kerala and Orissa for different kinds of construction work. The former head of L&T's construction division, Chandrasekhar says, "For any kind of structural steel work the Bengalis and Keralites are used. For stone and wood work, Rajasthani labour is utilised. And, for masonary and plastering work the Biharis are good. For painting jobs, Tamil labour is good."

While there may not be much of a difference in the labour charges between the local Tamilian labourer and his counterparts from other states, construction companies say they have the advantage of prompt project completion when they use use workers fronm outside the state.

"Workers from outside the state are disciplined and are willing to work extra hours if they are given a place to stay at the construction site. Further, they don't want to go back home for want of opportunities there," he adds.

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Chennai high rises sound like the Tower of Babel