On Monday, October 29, three labourers and one engineer lost their lives while working at a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) under-construction site at Narela in the outskirts of Delhi. However, this is not the first time. Data collated by Rajdhani Bhavan Nirman Kamgar Union shows that 150 workers have died this year while last year, 100 workers had died at major construction sites.
The incident happened when the hydraulic lift malfunctioned at around 4:30 PM. The labourers were working in the tower crane machine when the failure happened. Meanwhile, the police has registered a case against the owner of the company, who was outsourced by DDA for the construction of the residential flats.
The deceased victims have been identified as Sonu (25) from Bihar, Sonu (27) from Uttar Pradesh, Rajkumar (25) from Jharkhand and an engineer named Pramod (30). . Notably, the labourers were not given any safety belt or any other safety equipment.
In a separate incident, two workers died as they allegedly fell from the scaffolding of a private under-construction building on the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway. The workers, who hailed from West Bengal fell from the 14th floor after which the columns of the scaffolding fell on their heads, resulting in their death. The incident took place at around 10.30 AM. The dead have been identified as, Murtaza (26) and Sunny (20). As per, the Noida Expressway police station SHO Hansraj Bhadoriya, “Prima facie it appears that some object fell on the duo and they lost balance.”
In another incident, four workers had died after the scaffolding of another private under-construction building on the Noida-Greater Noida Expressway had collapsed.
In all the cases, workers have reiterated that the deaths were due to the negligence and lack of safety equipment. Talking to Newsclick, Rajiv, a mason and the president of the Building Workers’ Union which is affiliated to AICCTU (All India Central Council of Trade Unions) said, “What happened in Narela was simply due to negligence and lack of safety equipment such as helmet, safety lock belt, rope and others. And it is clearly the duty of the contractor under whom they are working to provide these. The contractor has to make sure that his labourers are provided with minimum security. This is not happening for the first time. Workers are generally treated like this, as if their lives don’t matter.”
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Another worker, who wished to stay anonymous, said, “The collapse of the scaffolding is nothing unusual, the contractors should be prepared for that by providing security to their labourers. This is a grave mistake and they should not get away with it. We are planning for a strike where we are going to raise several demands regarding workers’ safety.”
When Newsclick talked to several workers, it became clear that they are also disappointed because of the irregular work hours and paltry wages. “First, they don’t provide us safety equipment and then we are ordered to work straight for 12-14 hours which is not humane. We have a family to look after and the paltry wages that we receive aren’t sufficient enough to feed our families,” one worker, his voice choking with emotion.
What’s pertinent to note is that after agriculture, construction industry is the second largest employer in the country. As per data, the industry grew by 80 per cent in between 2013-17. But behind this “second largest employer” are the grotesque lives of workers who work day in and out.
“Every year workers fall into the death trap either due to lack of safety equipment or by being buried in the rubble. There are also cases where the workers die after being electrocuted. There is no measure to ensure greater safety of the workers and that’s the sad part. What happens to their families is none of the contractor’s concern,” said Abhishek, secretary of AICCTU.
“In Ahluwalia construction, around 8 workers have died this year. Under the same construction company at Gurgaon, 4 workers have died. Again, at Noida, 12 workers have died at the construction site of the said company. This is just an indication of the series of deaths in the major construction sites this year itself. There is gross negligence as far as safety measures for the construction workers in Delhi and rest of India is concerned. Lifts are not properly maintained. Hammers and belts are not given. And then the contractors send them to 4th floor, 8th floor under such risky conditions. Its just because they are poor people and they won’t say no to work that they get them to work like this,” Sidheshwar Shukla from CITU.
“You know, in other countries, there is a theory of zero tolerance whereas in India there is no reaction to these deaths. Neither the government nor the MCD goes to see them. That’s the scenario in which they are working,” he added.