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Updated: April 10, 2013 16:21 IST

No respite, from sun and apathy

Krishnadas Rajagopal
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Labourers are the worst affected by the searing summer. A scene in Kozhikode city. Photo: K. Ragesh
Labourers are the worst affected by the searing summer. A scene in Kozhikode city. Photo: K. Ragesh

Workers at construction sites are the worst affected by the searing summer

With mercury soaring, those most affected will be the labourers working on construction sites in the city.

When asked whether clear directives have been issued to protect these workers from the unrelenting sun, the district authorities give contradictory statements.

Apart from random medical checks at construction sites, there have been no comprehensive efforts from the District Labour Office to ensure proper sanitary measures for the city’s migrant force at the construction sites and their residences. Most migrants in the city live in congested and rundown houses provided by private contractors and they face water scarcity and lack toilet facilities. “So far we have not received any complaints of workers suffering from heat conditions here. We heard about the Kollam administration’s suggestion that construction workers be keep out of the sun between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. We are yet to receive a similar direction here the district administration from,” Vijaya Kumar, District Labour Officer, said.

Responding to a question whether he would give a “stop-work” direction between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. here,

Kozhikode District Collector K.V. Mohan Kumar told The Hindu on Tuesday that “unlike districts like Palakkad, Kozhikode has not crossed the 40 degree Celsius mark. Then we have to introduce such measures. So far we have not received any complaints. We are monitoring the situation.”

But meteorological office forecast for the district clocks zero rainfall till April 14, a maximum temperature of 37 degree Celsius and a maximum relative humidity of 91 per cent.

The Health Department, on the other hand, responded by giving a list of the usual cautions for beating the summer heat like “wear loose cotton clothing, drink lots of water, drink gruel mixed with salt or sugar to avoid dehydration”. When asked whether his department had issued any health directive for construction workers in particular, District Medical Officer P.K. Mohanan said that a general direction “to take rest between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.” had been issued at the very onset of summer.

“But it is up to the District Labour Office to ensure sanitary measures and drinking water facility for labourers,” Dr. Mohanan said.

But these recommendations, it seems, are hardly followed on the ground.

“At construction sites of flats and high-rises, labourers brought in by agents in groups work overtime. That is, they work without respite from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is no shift change or rotation of workers in such work sites… a three-hour break is unheard of,” P. Ganeshan, a private contractor, said.

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