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‘Death would have been better for us’

Vasudha Venugopal
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At least then, compensation would be easy to come by, say Metro Rail’s injured workers

helplessSadiq Islam is among the six injured in the accident at the Pachaiyappa’s site last August. One worker lost his life —Photo: S.S. Kumar
helplessSadiq Islam is among the six injured in the accident at the Pachaiyappa’s site last August. One worker lost his life —Photo: S.S. Kumar

After last Thursday’s accident at a Metro Rail site in Alandur, bedridden Sadiq Islam saw a glimmer of hope.

It came in the form of a phone call from a former colleague. “Big officials from the company (Chennai Metro Rail Limited) may come to the hospital. Go beg in front of them,” said the caller.

Roughly five months ago, 24-year-old Sadiq was severely injured in the first fatal accident at a Chennai Metro Rail site. A crane boom failure at the site near Pachaiyappa’s College killed one and injured six others, including Sadiq.

Since then, he has been shunted to three hospitals and undergone five operations. The migrant from Dinajpur in West Bengal is now in a private hospital on Poonamalle High Road and without any money.

Sadiq and the others involved in the accident were employed by Valecha Engineering, a sub-contractor engaged by Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which is one of the contractors for Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL).

“On that day in August, I was fitting the lattice when the slab above crashed on my stomach. I became unconscious. Doctors say my kidney has failed and my hip bone is damaged. After every operation, my pain has only increased,” the labourer said.

Sadiq came to Chennai last July and has worked for rail networks in other cities. “I came for this job because Metro Rail pays well, almost Rs. 10,000 a month. But in just a month, I was rendered jobless,” he said.

For over a month now, no doctor has tended him, he said. “During one operation, doctors put a tube in my body to help me pass urine. Now, it is very painful. But doctors here say they cannot do anything as my company has not paid for my treatment,” he said.

In the past few months, Sadiq has not received any money from his contract agency.

“After the accident, they said they would take care of my treatment, but in a few days, they abandoned me. I eat hospital food, and since I cannot move, I keep telephoning my employers only to hear the same thing every single time — that they will look into the matter,” he said.

Back home in Dinajpur, Sadiq’s mother and four younger sisters have lost hope, he said. “I wanted my sisters to study, at least till class V, but with no money in the house, they have begun working at a beedi manufacturing unit,” he said.

Sadiq’s colleague Inamool Haq, who was also injured in the accident, shares his misery. “We were promised Rs. 25,000 by the State government. The contractor too, said, some compensation would be arranged from their end. But we received nothing,” said the 36-year-old foreman over phone from Ulhasnagar in West Bengal.

“Another worker, Jalaluddin, and I broke our hips in the accident. We were sent home after two weeks, with the promise that some money would be sent to us soon. We were even informed when the cheques from the State government arrived but have received nothing so far. The contract agency only paid us for the period we were admitted in hospital,” he said.

Inamool has now lost both his legs and is mostly bedridden. “I won’t be able to work now. I have four daughters and no money to feed them. Death would have been better. At least then, my family would have received the compensation amount immediately,” he said.

After the August accident, CMRL said it was the shared responsibility of contract agencies to compensate hired labourers.

But contractors say, CMRL has a role to play. “It is a CMRL work site, and they have engaged several contract agencies for the work. But we are doing our best to ensure compensation reaches the workers,” said an official of L&T.

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