At least one labourer dies every day at a construction site in Pune, claim labour activists, accusing government authorities and builders of neglecting safety of the 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.
“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 entire government machinery should be held responsible for the death of labourers. “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 Saturday’s accident was a result of “collective negligence” of the authorities. “Government authorities never monitor the sensitive spots at under-construction buildings during the monsoon. At least, we are not aware of any such efforts. It shows collective negligence of the officials,” he said.
Shinde said considering the quality of houses that workers are made to live in, it is not surprising that such accidents happen routinely. “Forget about constant or heavy rainfall, their huts or tin-shed hutments are so weak that they keep collapsing even otherwise. Then there is no proper provision for water supply, even arrangements for cooking food are not provided. Their huts have no electricity, no fans and no proper sleeping facility. For 100 labourers, barely two toilets are provided. These issues are common at all construction sites,” he said.
Police chiefs of both Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad said action was always taken against wilful lapses or negligence by the builders or contractors.
“Enforcement of building regulations and labour laws are with specialised agencies. Whenever a wilful lapse takes place, causing grievous injury or death, it attracts provisions of Indian Penal Code. Swift and firm action is always taken. Even in the present case, two arrests have already been made. Help of experts in building laws and labour laws is also being taken,” Pune police commissioner K Venkatesham said.
He added that 10 bodies would be flown to Bihar on Saturday night.
His counterpart in Pimpri Chinchwad, R K Padmanabhan, said police would not spare anybody who is found to be negligent in such cases. “Whenever such cases are brought to us, action is promptly taken. We do not protect anyone. But in such cases, the labour inspector also has to ensure that proper safety conditions are put in place at construction sites,” he said.