Page 23 - Contractors World - International Vol 3 No 7

Page 23
Contractors World - International Vol 3 No 7
To which Anna said “We also expect significant growth from infrastructure. The current five year plan of the
government, which covers the period up until 2017, includes doubling the investments in this sector compared to the
recent one. Big investments are planned to expand the country’s energy- and water supply as well as roads and the train
network. Furthermore, several ports and airports are in planning or already being built.”
However, in some respects, India is still behind when it comes to the market for construction machinery and
equipment. On this, Mr Mahershwari said that as long as labour costs are comparably low, at least smaller firms will shy
away from the investments that come with that sort of equipment. India‘s highly fragmented building sector still hosts a
significant number of these. Especially if we are talking about smaller building projects, the smaller builders often have
an advantage, since they offer cheaper labour compared to the big competitors.
But even as we speak, the circumstances are changing. There are two main factors that make a growing construction
equipment market very likely. The number of larger projects is growing strongly. With those, heavy machinery is without
alternative if companies want to build beyond a certain size. Especially in the metropolises many new buildings have
reached a size which is impossible to build without the help of professional equipment.
The second factor is the time. The more the professional the sector becomes, the shorter the schedules become.
Manual labour may still be cheaper, but it will consume more time. And that is time that especially the large builders are
not willing to afford.”
It is a major task for the industry to adapt to the expected growth. India‘s worldwide market share in the industry
already tripled to six per cent from 2004 to 2010 and will continue to grow. Companies, therefore, have to adapt on
multiple fronts. One of them is the collaboration with the suppliers, another is improving the competitiveness. This
means, for example, to create new products which suit the India customers’ demands and to continuously upgrade the
skills of the sales force.
Need to address health and safety issues
Such investments in infrastructure can only contribute to improving the lives of many in the country. However, although
the Government is committing billions of rupees to infrastructure development
there is little sign of them implementing even the most basic of health and
safety practices.
The newspapers of India frequently report on the numerous deaths
occurring on construction sites and yet, as the Times of India recently reported
that the Government is in the dark as to how many deaths, never mind
accidents, there actually are.
The Times of India said ‘Labour officials state that, by their information,
40
such labourers died in the past six months in Maharashtra. The real figure,
though, could be much higher, they admit. “The law requires that we be
informed of deaths at construction sites within 72 hours. But we receive no
official information,” says a senior labour official.’
Entire communities can be displaced with little or no compensations in
implementing the grandiose schemes and, despite constant denials, child
labour is still a common occurrence on sites throughout India.
Equipment is regularly misused and often poorly maintained, even basic
tools such as ladders are often used with broken rungs. Sandals are the
standard foot wear for many, who, somewhat congruously could be wearing a
hard hat. Concrete burns and other similar injuries are a common occurrence with little reporting, no medical treatment
and no compensation.
In the western world, it is doubtful if any construction worker would accept such conditions. They are protected
somewhat by law and social benefit schemes. In India, there is no such protection.
Making steps
With such dangerous construction activities one could question the social responsibility of manufacturers providing
equipment. However, most of these companies do have active training policies and do promote onsite safety and safety
awareness.
It is encouraging to see that on some of the major projects, stricter safety regulations are being implemented but the
government needs to do more - much more.
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One construction company forbids child
labour, which indicates how prevalent it is.
.
Photo: Victor Grigas