‘Contractors should be told to shape up or ship out if they don’t look after workers’
The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday warned the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) that the constructions on the metro rail project may be ordered to be stopped if the agencies concerned failed to protect human rights of construction workers.
The Court also gave the BMRCL 20 days to ensure that its contractors extend the workers their rights as per law.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna issued the direction even as the BMRCL assured the Bench that it would call a meeting of its major contractors and ensure that they adhered to the laws.
The Bench directed BMRCL counsel to make it clear to the major contractors that contracts would be terminated if there was even one violation of the law after the deadline. The Bench noted that the chances given to the contractors to abide by the laws had not resulted in improvement in the living conditions of the workers.
“We will no more treat it as violation of labour laws. We will treat them as violations of human the rights of these workers. Development cannot be at the cost of workers,” the Bench said.
The Bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by Samuel Sathyaseelan, a social worker, complaining about the condition of workers engaged in the metro project.
When counsel for the Ministry of Labour pointed out that criminal cases had been booked against the contractors, the Bench said the Ministry did not do anything on its own to ensure human rights of the workers till the Court took note of it and inspection was carried out after Court’s directions.
The Bench made it clear that booking criminal cases was one aspect, but ensuring that the contractors provide proper living conditions and pay proper wages was more important.
“How are you ensuring welfare of these workers,” the Bench asked.
The Bench also directed the authorities to provide the number of workers employed for the project, and details of the main and sub-contractors involved in the project, while adjourning the hearing to July 24.