Amidst the clamour of slogans, recriminations and tall promises, what gets muted is the real issues of the citizens. NewsClick is bringing to you a series of detailed reports on several crucial issues from the ground. In this report, our team took stock of the state of construction workers from Julana Assembly constituency in Jind district of Haryana.
Jind/Haryana: With only a few days left before the Haryana Assembly polls, the election campaigning on the ground is at its peak. Caravans of political parties are moving around, playing loud bass music. Flags showcasing their political symbols are unfurling at every nook and corner.
However, none of these parties have given sufficient space in their manifestos to one of the most crucial sections of the society—workers. While a section of these workers have to find work on a daily basis at the Labour Chowk, another section constitutes those who are employed with the construction companies. Most of these workers endure hazardous working conditions in absence of any safety equipment. In case of an accident, barring some exceptions, no financial assistance is provided to them.
According to the Haryana’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, at present, nearly 7.76 lakh workers are registered in the state, out of which, 60,000 workers are from Jind.
The workers NewsClick spoke to in Julana said that the biggest issue in front of them, as of now, is to get registered under the welfare board in order to receive the social and economic benefits. The state machinery enacted a law in 1996, while the welfare board was formed in 2007, under which financial assistance—such as scholarships for the children—is provided to the workers.
However, workers have been constantly deprived of these benefits and the last five years of Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in the state have failed in bringing any change to the abysmal condition of the workers.
Rajesh, 58, of Julana’s Fatehgarh village, is still waiting for the financial assistance that he was supposed to receive for his daughter’s marriage. Her daughter was married three years ago. Angry with the apathetic attitude of the BJP government, he said, “Humare roti ke laale hain, aur Khattar humein Kashmir me ghar khareedane ke sapane dikha raha hai. (We are struggling to earn our daily bread, and Khattar is showing us dreams of buying houses in Kashmir).”
Another labourer, Pyaare Lal, 60, from Deorar village in Jind district hasn’t received any financial assistance for his children’s education. He has also filed a case for not receiving any welfare fund for his daughter’s marriage that took place two years ago.
NewsClick came across many such construction workers who have now approached the labour court, hoping for relief.
“The government insults us like this by making us beg for the money that is rightfully ours,” said Pyaare lal, who arranged money for his daughter’s marriage by taking a loan. He hoped that he will meet this liability with the money from the welfare board. Now, with an added cost of the case that he has filed, his debt has increased.
“Today, the life of a construction worker is in serious crisis,” Kapur Singh, district secretary of Bhawan Nirman Kamgar Union told NewsClick, “the worker is not able to afford even bread and chutney today.”
He blamed the Khattar-led BJP government in the state for the worsened conditions of the construction workers. According to him, in the month of December last year, the Haryana government announced that the workers will have to register online to access the benefits they are entitled to.
“The decision was taken in haste, with no preparation on ground to carry out the digital registration and the construction workers paid heavy price due to this,” said Singh. The older records are not updated and as a result even a registered construction worker has to visit different government officials to receive his benefits, he added.
Earlier this year, in June, thousands of construction workers in Jind district had gathered in front of the mini secretariat to make their demands heard.
As far as the Assembly elections are concerned, the issues of construction workers have been ignored by all the political parties. However, Left parties have raised this issue ahead of the upcoming elections. They have even fielded Kamlesh Lahli, a construction worker herself, from Rohtak’s Kalanaur Assembly seat.
It should be noted though that the Left parties have limited presence in the state. They are contesting only from 11seats, out of which Communist Party of India (Marxist) is contesting from seven seats, while Communist Party of India is fighting for four seats.
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