In the wake of the Kondhwa tragedy that claimed 15 lives, the Bandhkam Mazdoor Sabha on Monday demanded stringent implementation of the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
The Sabha also launched an indefinite hunger strike in front of the district collectorate on Monday morning. Nitin Pawar, Sabha’s general secretary, said the state government framed rules under the Building and Other Construction Workers Act in 2007. “We thought that the plight of workers would end after the rules were framed. However, nothing happened; the rules were never implemented seriously and workers continue to die or get injured at construction sites,” he said.
Pawar said the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, Mumbai, is the sole authority in Maharashtra which is supposed to implement the rules for safety and welfare of the labourers. “The board is supposed to ensure that the provisions of the Building Act are implemented strictly. However, they do not have the requisite machinery to do the same. Therefore, they have designated the responsibility to state labour department,” he said.
Pawar said the labour department, which is supposed to oversee the implementation of the Act, has also failed in its job.
He added that welfare of construction labourers was an additional responsibility for the labour department, whose main task is to look after the interest of industrial workers. “The industrial work force is 95 per cent while the construction workers are 5 per cent… The department is not able to do justice to construction workers as the additional responsibility seems to be a burden for it,” said Pawar.
The Sabha Monday demanded setting up of district-wise welfare boards, instead of having one board at the state level. “Currently, there is only one board at state level — the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board. There should be boards at district-level for the interest of construction workers. The board should be provided required machinery and workforce for implementing of the Act,” said Mehboob Nadas, president of the Bandhkam Mazdoor Sabha.
Pawar said under the Maharashtra Mathadi, Hamal and Other Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment Welfare) Act, at least 35 boards have been set up. “The boards have been set up across the state and they are doing their job appropriately. On the similar lines, welfare boards at district levels should be set up for construction workers,” he said.
Nadas said the “role of Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board also raises doubts despite it having funds to the tune of Rs 32,000 crore”. “This amount is collected from cess levied on construction work… Except for giving scholarship to children of construction workers, the board has not done anything worthwhile,” he said.
Nadas said the registration of labourers has been made complicated. “Most of the labourers are from other states. They are mostly illiterate and have no documents to get themselves registered. Ration cards and domicile certificates are demanded from them, which they often do not possess. Aadhaar has been made mandatory for opening bank accounts. But many of them do not have Aadhaar cards and therefore they cannot open bank accounts and direct benefits cannot be transferred to their accounts,” he said.
Pawar said labour department employees are supposed to visit construction sites and get registration done.
Alleging that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was “favouring builders”, the Sabha said, “The CM had announced that accidents at construction sites will be registered only as accidents and no cases will be filed against builders. This attitude of the state government has emboldened builders to act as per their whims.”