At least one labourer dies every day at a construction site in Pune, claim labour activists, accusing the government and builders of neglecting safety of workers.
“We try to maintain a record of all accidents and deaths at construction sites across Pune district. On an average, at least one death takes place every day at various construction sites in the city. However, we often do not have full information. The police and labour commissioner’s office refuse to share information,” said Jayant Shinde, who heads the Bandhkaam Kamgar Sena, which has been campaigning for improvements in the working conditions of construction workers.
Shinde said they had records of 110 deaths of construction workers in 2018.
After tough talk, builders let off the hook
There has been a pattern in the responses of Pune Municipal Corporation to such tragedies. A look at the recent cases, including the 2016 Pride Purple incident in Balewadi, shows that although the PMC talks of tough action against erring builders at the time of the incident, and even stops works at the site, everything returns to normal after a few months. The builders are cleared in the inquiries, apparently because of the reasoning that people who have already paid money to buy homes should not be allowed to suffer because of the failure of the builders to provide safety to the workers.
“We have gathered this information from our own efforts while monitoring accidents at construction sites. But we know this figure is not complete, and the actual numbers could be higher because we are unable to monitor all construction sites and do not have sources of information of all of these places. Shockingly, when we sought information from the office of the Labour Commissioner through an RTI application, we were given information of only 40 deaths. This means there is something seriously wrong. Information about workers’ deaths is being concealed,” Shinde said.
Manav Kamble, who heads the Nagari Haqq Suraksha Samiti, which also works for the welfare of construction workers, said the government should be held responsible for the deaths. “The labour commissioner, the concerned officials of Pune Municipal Corporation and district collectorate, police officials,… everyone has to take the blame. All of them have ignored the safety of workers, and every effort is made to protect the builder community. Nobody cares for the life of labourers,” Kamble said.
Activist Maruti Bhapkar said the accident was a result of “collective negligence” of the authorities. “Government authorities never monitor the sensitive spots at underconstruction buildings during the monsoon…,” he added.