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Who is accountable for metro workers’ plight?

Bageshree S.
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Students’ reports on worksites detail violation of basic rights

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
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

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.

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