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Updated: November 22, 2012 11:59 IST

Who is accountable for metro workers’ plight?

Bageshree S.
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DRIVEN TO EXHAUSTION: This photograph was taken on November 3 last year. The metro worker was ill and was vomiting blood. File Photo: K. Gopinathan
The Hindu DRIVEN TO EXHAUSTION: This photograph was taken on November 3 last year. The metro worker was ill and was vomiting blood. File Photo: K. Gopinathan

Students’ reports on worksites detail violation of basic rights

Who exactly owns responsibility for the safety of workers at Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) sites, where there have been several incidents of accidents leading to grievous injuries and deaths?

This query raised by a group of students — who did a detailed study of the condition of workers at BMRCL sites in 2009 and a follow-up study earlier this year — is still to be answered by BMRCL or any other authority.

BMRCL’s rider

The story begins in 2009 when four students, with the Bangalore legal service group Alternative Law Forum guiding them, took up a study of labour condition in Namma Metro sites. Permission for such a study was granted by BMRCL authorities, with the rider that a copy of the final report should be given to them.

The first report was submitted to BMRCL in May, 2010, which detailed violations of basic rights and labour laws at several of the worksites. With no response forthcoming from BMRCL on whether it had taken any action on the report to ensure safety and better living conditions to workers, the study team, led by Samuel Sathyaseelan, started approaching various departments with the report.

In December 2011, it approached the Karnataka Labour Department with a Right to Information application to know the action taken by the department. In its reply, received in January 2012, department washed its hands off the whole affair transferring responsibility to the Central government.

Full circle

Mr. Satyaseelan then sent copies of the report to Ministry of Railways and Union Ministry of Labour in June, 2012. The latter, in turn, passed the buck to the Ministry of Urban Development. The query, however, came a full circle when the Urban Development Ministry sent it to the BMRCL on September 6, 2012, the corporation to reply.

In the meanwhile, Mr. Satyaseelan did a follow-up study visiting the new camps under Reach 2 and found that labour conditions continued to be abysmal as they were when he and his team did the first study. He has filed an appeal on his RTI query, to which also he is yet to get a response.

Both the studies, presented along with photographs, speak of the poor and unhygienic living conditions, violation of labour laws and unsafe work environment. It also speaks of several labour violations, including Contract Labour Act 1970, and Building and Other Construction Workers Act 1996.

“We found during the second study that none of the workers we spoke to had even labour cards with them and they were not registered,” said Mr. Satyaseelan.

More In: Bangalore

Wait for election time. Thats when "helping the poor" is sexy. Our ministers will visit their houses and eat the little food they have. Until then and after the election, we will treat them like dirt.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Nov 23, 2012 at 16:57 IST

This shows the attitude of the governement machinary towards the downtrodden people of the society.

They spend unaccounted amount of money for celebrating completion of 100 days, 200days etc at office and to get other luxuries like better bunglow, costly cars etc.. all at the expense of the exchequer.

But the people who really need this money are not getting it. This is going on for years now. 60+ years after independence politicians are still talking about providing basic facilities to the poor and marginal people of the society.

from:  umesh
Posted on: Nov 23, 2012 at 08:09 IST

I don't know why people are blaming Bangalore Metro Rail. Metro Rail is just the employer. It is not responsible for how people live, their living conditions, housing or food. All it is responsible for is paying decent wages for the day's work. If the wages or safety standards are too low, then I agree there is cause for complaint, but if living conditions for Metro Rail workers are bad, it is not the responsiblity of Metro Rail.

from:  K. Raghunathan
Posted on: Nov 23, 2012 at 04:09 IST

Living condition of workers in the metro construction sites is awful. Moreover dangerous. There were many causalities reported recently. BMRCL is putting an act of escapade and passing the buck to other depts. Not only in this case, but also to the RTI file regarding slow progress of the work.
The question is, does these govt institutes ever care to tackle their problems and improve their performance in delivering.

from:  Naveen S
Posted on: Nov 22, 2012 at 15:25 IST

Everything's great - except the last line about the labour cards. Most laborers do
NOT want to have a card since it ties them down to working in a particular place. They would rather be "footloose" and migrate to wherever they want - whenever they want. It would be good to get some quotes from laborers themselves - adds a human touch to the story. Still, good to see labour issues in the press - a rarity these days!

from:  Ram
Posted on: Nov 22, 2012 at 13:07 IST

What a shame.

This is how we treat the people who build our cities and our infrastructure.

from:  Dhiraj Shetty
Posted on: Nov 22, 2012 at 09:25 IST
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