Construction is going on everywhere in India, especially in Gurgaon. I’ve been watching them build the metro station next to my apartment complex for the last 6 months, and it’s almost done. There is also a home being built in the once vacant lot across the street. As someone that has spent years in the real estate industry as well as both residential and commercial construction, I can tell you that their methods shock me on a daily basis. Here are some good examples.
- Very little protective gear: I’ve never seen protective gear on the people building residential homes in India, ever. I don’t know if these are people building their own homes or if they are hired labor, but regardless, they wear normal street clothes and flip-flops most of the time. As for commercial construction, I do see SOME hard-hats and safety vests, but that’s about it. Work boots are expensive ($100 USD) over here so the average Indian person can’t afford them. I’ve also even seen guys doing welding without a face shield. Yikes!
- Transportation: There is a huge apartment complex being built down the street from me. Every day they transport their workers to the jobsite on about 5 buses full of Indian men. I don’t know where they all come from and where they catch the bus, but it seems like an efficient way to get their workers there. They also often just ride to work as a group in the back of a dump truck.
- Limited tools and machinery: When I say limited, I mean almost non-existent at times. I’ve seen 20 men standing around digging a hole that takes them many days to complete. A backhoe could have it done in a matter of hours. I’m not sure if it is because large machinery is scarce in India, or if it’s just cost prohibitive. Labor is so cheap that it might very well cost less to pay 20 men for 4 days than to rent a backhoe. I have also seen guys spending hours bending rebar trying to break it off just because they don’t have a saw! The same goes for a basic wheelbarrow. I’ve yet to see one. Instead the workers carry heavy loads of bricks on their heads in large metal bowls.
- Lots of old standing incomplete buildings: All over Delhi and Gurgaon are buildings that were never completed and now are falling apart and are a real safety hazard. Obviously I don’t have any idea why they stopped construction or why the city doesn’t tear them down.
- Makeshift shelters next to smaller construction sites to house workers: Typically, people live in little shacks or brick huts next to the construction site. This is particularly true for residential construction.
- Materials: Rebar and steel are always rusty: In the U.S we wouldn’t dream of using them in construction, but it’s just standard practice in India. Also, scaffolding is hard to come by so they often use large pieces of bamboo tied together.
- Little (if any) regulations for safety and health: The men working construction here generally work 12 hour days or longer in 110 plus temperatures without being paid for overtime. Indians are tough people!
- Finish work: I have to be honest, the finished work in India is awful! Caulking looks like it was applied by a kindergartener. Paint lines are crooked, walls aren’t plum and faucet fixtures are loose or leak, even in the most expensive buildings. I imagine it is probably a result of limited tools, limited training, or both.
In spite of all these challenges, I’m amazed at how quickly the construction progresses in India. It appears to me that the construction timeframes are similar to that in the U.S. Perhaps it is because they aren’t delayed with the typical regulation we see in America.