city anchor: Deceased labourers’ kin get raw deal in name of compensation

Are families of labourers who die at construction sites being denied their rightful due in terms of compensation?

Written by MANOJ MORE | Published: July 24, 2012 1:06:37 am

Are families of labourers who die at construction sites being denied their rightful due in terms of compensation? Response to an RTI query reveals that the kin of deceased workers,who should get up to Rs 10 lakh,have to make do with less than Rs 2 lakh. Reason: developers strike a deal with the families,who,due to lack of knowledge and means,fail to approach the Labour Court,which decides on the compensation amount.

Jayant Shinde,organiser of Bharatiya Kamgar Sena,moved the RTI application with the Labour Commissioner. The response to the query shows how families,unware of their rights,have to make do with whatever the builders offer them,he said. This,when the Workers Compensation Act,1923,lays down norms for compensation. The Act lays emphasis on the age of workers and their wages while determining compensation for the families in case of their death,he said,adding that builders were blatantly violating the law.

For instance,he said,S K Kure (age 19 years) died at a construction site in Mulshi last year. His family received Rs 2 lakh from the developer. Laxman Sonkamble (32 years) died at a construction site in Pimple Saudagar last year. His family received Rs 2.25 lakh. Similarly,30-year-old Zumanlal Sayeeda Chelak died at a construction site in Kondhwa Khurd in January. Her family received Rs 1.04 lakh.

In all these cases,says Shinde,the amount of compensation ranges from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

S S Pansare,Deputy Registrar at the Labour Court,said,“If a worker’s age at the time of her or his death was 20 years and his monthly payment was Rs 4,000,her or his family should at least get around Rs 8 lakh as per the Act.” In case of a worker who was 30 and earned Rs 4,000 per month,the compensation would be Rs 6 lakh,he added.

Shinde said builders force kin of the deceased to sign on the dotted lines in the guise of an agreement of mutual understanding. The builders,he said,ask the families to declare that whatever is offered to them is full and final payment and they would not approach any court.

Pansare said such an understanding is illegal. “However,unless one appeals in the Labour Court,nothing can be done,” he says. After the death of a worker,a builder is supposed to immediately approach the Labour Court and deposit the amount of compensation. “But only few builders do that,” said Pansare.

Additional Labour Commissioner T G Cholke conceded that out-of-court settlement has no bearing. “It is true that aggrieved families are not getting due compensation because of lack of awareness. We are holding seminars and meetings to create awareness among labourers.”

Ganesh Thombre,whose father died at a construction site in Kalewadi last year,said,“The builder paid only Rs 2 lakh,which only covered the hospital bill. However,I approached the court two months later,after I was told that we were entitled for more.”

Cholke said when builders do not intimate them about the accidents,they are suo motu drawing the court’s attention and helping families make an appeal. The Building Construction Act is being implemented in all seriousness in the state only since last year,he added. “Things are changing in favour of construction workers.”

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