Apparently, the millions of migrant workers who fled cities at the peak of the Coronavirus syndrome are too scared to return. This is despite the sweeteners like higher pay and free air tickets being offered. Migrant labour forms the backbone of activities like manufacturing, construction, infrastructure projects, transport etc. This is likely to hit production.

It is clear that the migrant labourers have not forgotten the struggles when they had run away from the cities to escape hunger and joblessness. Many actually died along the way as they walked back to their home towns. Many came from states like Bihar, UP and Odisha. Still, more than 10,000 construction sites are still lying abandoned due to labour shortage.

Most contractors and business owners are trying their best to bring back migrant workers, even going to the extent of giving them air tickets, COVID-19 health insurance etc. However, the scepticism is too high. Even a big builder like Hiranandani has only got 30% of its labour force back. But it could be a bad combination of weak housing demand, absent labour and a financial crunch for companies.