As many as 15 leading private construction and infrastructure companies, executing the work for the prestigious Namma Metro project, have been slapped with criminal cases by none other than by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment for allegedly violating labour laws.

The Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), Ministry of Labour and Employment, Bangalore, has submitted a report in this regard to the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by Samuel Sathyaseelan, a social worker, highlighting non-compliance of various laws that protect the interest of labourers involved in the project.

Site inspections

The report followed inspections by the officials of the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner at various locations, including the construction sites, project offices, and camps where the labourers hired by the firms were housed.

In March, the court had asked the Ministry to respond to the complaint about non-compliance of labour laws concerning welfare of contract labourers.

Pointing out that a majority of the firms had hired workers from other States, the report stated that these companies had no licence to recruit migrant workers under the Inter-State Migrant Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act. Another major violation was no or improper maintenance of labourers’ register, wage slips, and employment cards.

Assistant Solicitor General of India S. Kalyan Basavaraj said that criminal cases were filed before the court of metropolitan magistrate based on the inspection report.

BMRCL argument

However, counsel for Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd contended that law on migrant workers are not applicable as the firms had not recruited the labour from other States and that migrants from there had been recruited locally.

While majority of the companies had complied with the provisions of Building and Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, seven allegedly flouted the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act norms.

Meanwhile, the Ministry has also filed complaints against Kalindee Rail Nirman (Engineers Ltd) and Johnson Lifts Pvt Ltd for carrying out work without registering as per the BOCW Act.

Living conditions

Though labourers were provided with temporary shelters and other facilities like utensils, cooking gas, mess, and so on, the report said abysmal hygiene in their quarters, toilets, washing area and so on was a cause for concern. While many firms improved their conditions after the notice, some still failed to maintain standards, the report found.

Meanwhile, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna adjourned further hearing to July 3 directing the Ministry on follow-up actions and the State government to report on how it has protected the labourers by ensuring compliance of laws by the contractors.

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