COV‘AID’
ECONOMY & POLICY

COV‘AID’

The second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic has been very severe.  In a bid to help state authorities and urban local bodies (ULBs), several developers across India are supporting them with various medical and quarantine facilities.  Help at hand Maharashtra is no ex...

The second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic has been very severe.  In a bid to help state authorities and urban local bodies (ULBs), several developers across India are supporting them with various medical and quarantine facilities.  Help at hand Maharashtra is no exception. Members of realty developers’ body CREDAI MCHI have converted their properties at different places and are offering them as facilities or COVID centres.For instance, as Deepak Goradia, President, CREDAI MCHI, tells us: Naman Group has created a facility with 120 beds along with oxygen facilities at the Worli Nehru Centre in Mumbai. The group had also constructed a 600-bed facility at the Turf Club parking lot at Mahalaxmi Race Course in June-July last year. This facility was later discontinued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Ajmera Group has a commercial project in Andheri near Saki Naka, where it has created a 40-bed facility and handed it over to the BMC. Additionally, the group is adding another 20 beds for quarantine as well as treatment. Rustomjee Group has handed over a school in Dahisar. It has converted 25 classrooms into COVID care facilities, with each classroom having a provision for six patients. In all, 150 beds are being provided at this centre. Rustomjee is also looking at handing over a few other schools for the same purpose. Pune developer Malpani Group is providing a large facility for COVID care. The 209- bed centre in Baner includes 31 ICUs, 31 HDUs and 147 oxygen beds. The group has already built an area of 40,000 sq ft and handed it over to Pune Municipal Corporation. CREDAI Nashik Metro has set up a 340-bed COVID centre facility at Thakkers Dome in collaboration with Nashik Municipal Corporation. When asked if oxygen arrangements are made at these facilities, Goradia responds, “Oxygen available in bottles can be provided but larger arrangements take about two to three months.” Further, real-estate developers are also helping local bodies with other initiatives such as undertaking vaccination drives for the labour force and stepping up safety measures at construction sites. Apart from developers, several other firms are coming forward to help battle the pandemic in various ways. In the wake of high oxygen demand from hospitals, Jindal Stainless—which produces liquid oxygen at its stainless steel manufacturing facility in Hisar for industrial purposes—has been supplying ~8 tonne a day of liquid oxygen to the nearby medical facilities in Haryana. The firm has been supplying oxygen to nearby hospitals since April 2020; it has supplied over 2,170 tonne of oxygen to medical facilities so far. Jindal Stainless is prepared to supply more to hospitals in need even at the expense of its production commitments. Taking responsibility The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost all sections of society, including the estimated 8.5 million workers in the construction industry. The question is: Is the real-estate and construction sector prepared enough to tackle the situation of looking after in-situ migrant labourers at sites? According to Dr Niranjan Hiranandani, National President, NAREDCO, “The industry is now much equipped to tackle the on-ground situation during the COVID resurgence with better safety gear and precautionary measures in practice for in-situ migrant labourers. Complying with state governments’ SOPs, developers are also being responsible to facilitate food, shelter, and daily wages, acting as a safety net to keep the reverse migration at bay.” Reverse migration by migrant labour is a worry across the economy. “The safety and security that opening up vaccination to everyone over 18 will bring across age groups—including construction labour—will go a long way in ensuring a safe and secure working environment,” he adds. Further, says Goradia, “We have requested every developer to do an Antigen test first and if something suspicious is found, to immediately do the RT-PCR test. We have also tied up with doctors locally; they visit the site once a week and a medical check-up is done for all the labourers. This will be going on at almost all sites.” Will real estate bounce back? The commercial and residential real-estate segments had started seeing a meaningful bounce last quarter, resulting in improvement in stakeholders’ sentiments. However, the severe spread of a second wave of COVID infections has marred sentiments in the last month or so. Goradia begs to differ, though. “We don’t see the second wave having such a huge impact on the real-estate sector,” he avers. “The Maharashtra government is working actively to break the chain. While the second wave may disturb the first quarter of 2022 in terms of launches and sales, as the real-estate sector, our turnover does not get disrupted; it only gets delayed.” When asked about the supply chain, Goradia confirms that with construction activity ongoing and the labour force staying at site, the supply chain, too, is not interrupted. “We are getting the required supply of raw materials such as cement, steel, etc.” In agreement, Dr Hiranandani says, “We may witness short-term sluggishness for site visits owing to travel restrictions but the sector will bounce back with more ready products to cater to customers.” - SERAPHINA D’SOUZA

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