Gudi Padwa in times of coronavirus/File
Gudi Padwa in times of coronavirus/File
Photo by BL Soni

While the Maharashtra government has permitted construction activity, it has not permitted the back office/ sales office of the builders to function during the partial lockdown. Considering Gudi Padwa and Akshaya Tritiya will fall in this month, the partial lockdown will impact flat booking and sales, said Builders’ Association of India (BAI). These two days are considered auspicious by home buyers. So, the builders stated this will not just impact businesses but the government will lose on the stamp duty revenue as well.

The association urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to allow back-office operations, “If the back office (sales office) of the builders are closed, prospective buyers will face a lot of problems, builders will lose out on business and the government will lose out on stamp duty. Hence, these offices need to be allowed to be open by observing proper SOPs (standard operating procedure)."

The association lauded the government in its proactive and positive steps taken in reducing the stamp duty and also the various development charges. This allowed the construction industry in Maharashtra to slowly and steadily improve. It stated, “The nearly 400 allied industries with forward and backward linkage to the construction industry were also picking up. Migrant labourers had come back and had started working. However, the Government of Maharashtra’s recent order outlining new SOP’s threatens to undo all the positive developments of the last few months.”

As per the SOP, construction activity will be allowed only for sites where labourers are living on site. The movement to and fro from outside must be avoided, except for the purposed of material movements.

It also stated everyone engaged in the activity to get vaccinated at the earliest, as per the criteria of Indian government and until getting vaccinated, they must carry a negative RT- PCR test result certificate, which will be valid for 15 days. This rule will come into effect from April 10, 2021. Keeping this in mind, BAI stated, “RT- PCR test is a lengthy and time-consuming process and the results are available only after three or four days. On the contrary, the antigen test is the newest coronavirus screening method, which detects proteins that are parts of the coronavirus. This is done in almost the same method as the RT- PCR. Antigen test is able to give the results quicker than RT- PCR and is not as expensive. Hence, we request that antigen test be also allowed.”

Defaults will lead to a fine of Rs 10,000 for the developer of the construction site and repeated defaults may lead to the closure of the site till the existence of notification of the COVID 19 epidemic, the order stated.

If any worker is found positive he or she would be allowed medical leave and cannot be discontinued during this absence for this reason. He or she will be entitled to full wages that he or she might have earned had he or she not contracted the illness.

In addition, BAI stated construction activity is dependent on a lot of vendors and service providers. “Construction activity also requires a lot of back-office support – drawings, plans, designs, schedules, finances, etc. If they are not there, construction sites cannot operate. Just like offices of advocates have been allowed to remain open, offices of architects, licensed surveyors, engineers, structural engineers, licensed plumbers and other consultants should be allowed to operate their offices with at least 50 per cent strength.”

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