Skip to main content

Gujarat officials: Under Modi, govt "did nothing" for construction workers' welfare; 7 of 731 deaths compensated

By Our Representative
In a sharp admission, officials of the Gujarat government have told an NGO-sponsored workshop in Ahmedabad that during Narendra Modi’s tenure as chief minister, the state officialdom did “virtually nothing” in addressing the plight of the construction workers. The workshop was organized on the occasion of the International Workers Memorial Day, which is observed on April 28.
Organized by Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan (BMS), a voluntary organization working among construction workers, who are mainly migrants from the tribal areas, senior officials of the state’s main agency responsible for their welfare, Gujarat Building and Other Construction Workers’ Board, said the board remained on paper for nearly a decade.
“Only after I took over as board chairman in November 2014 that things began moving”, declared board chairman Dr Anil Patel, a BJP leader, adding, “Not only has the board become fully functional, but it has implemented a large number of schemes. There is a full-time member-secretary and staff.”
“We have launched massive campaigns to register construction workers so that they could benefit from different government schemes. Recently it launched mobile medical check-up programme at different working sites through the Dhanvantary Aarogya Rath, inaugurated by chief minister Anandiben Patel”, Patel said.
Referring to the Building and Other Construction Workers Act (BOCW), 1996, a senior official of the board, HS Patel said, “While the state government moved to implement the Act in 2003 by coming up with its rules, till 2014, the board was virtually on paper. There was, of course, a board chairman, but he had no staff. There was nobody to see whether the Act was being implemented.”
The workshop was told by BMS’ Vipul Pandya that data obtained from the right to information (RTI) Act suggest that as many as 731 deaths of workers at construction sites have taken place, yet, because of the strange rules that only registered construction workers could get compensation, “just about seven of them could avail of it.”
The board chairman said, while the state agency he heads was doing all it could to ensure that the workers got all types of compensation and benefits they are entitled to, “Our hands are tied. Everything has to be done within the framework of the law. It is quite another thing that we have tried to simplify the interpretation of the law by making it simple.”
BMS activist Pandya agreed that, after Dr Patel took over, the process of registration, which was virtually at a standstill, has picked up in a big way. “Today, out of 11.26 lakh construction workers in Gujarat, a National Sample Survey (NSS) figure, 2.15 lakh of them have been registered, which is 19 per cent of the total.”
The figures provided for other states show that Madhya Pradesh’s 85 per cent, West Bengal’s 100 per cent, Tamil Nadu’s 60 per cent, Uttar Pradesh’s 30 per cent, Kerala’s 77 per cent, Andhra Pradesh’s 51 per cent, Odisha’s 63 per cent, Karnataka’s 67 per cent, Punjab’s 60 per cent, Bihar’s 27 per cent, Haryana’s 39 per cent, and Jharkhand’s 26 per cent workers have been registered to get benefits under the Act.
Pandya said, “Huge sums Rs 1236.58 crore have been collected as welfare cess under the Act. “In the last financial year, Gujarat government had allotted Rs.346 crore to the board for implementation of various social security and welfare schemes. However, it spent only Rs 12.58 crore. It suggests that there is a huge gap between the workers’ enrolment and the amount received by them as compensation.”
“Despite efforts by the board, less than two per cent of the welfare funds have been been utilized due to lack of awareness and willingness at all levels”, he alleged, adding, “The construction industry worldwide is known as an accident prone industry. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), globally, 17 per cent of all work related fatalities happen in the construction sector.”

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Modi model? "Refusal" to build Narmada's micro canals, keep Kutch dry; help industry

By Medha Patkar*
This is the latest photograph of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) of the Sardar Sarovar, as of April 8! What does it show, expose, and what memories do you recall? Is it dry or dead? Is it a canal or a carcass of the same?

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

Indian talc products contain "contaminated" asbestos structures, can cause cancer: Study

Counterview Desk
A recent study, using polarizing light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and X-ray analysis on multiple over-the-counter Indian talc products for the presence of asbestos, has concluded that large quantities of body talc products are likely to pose a public health risk for asbestos-related diseases, especially for the cancers related to asbestos exposure.

Why are you silent on discrimination against Dalit jawans? Macwan questions Modi

By Rajiv Shah
Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.

Jharkhand Adivasi lynched to death by mob "chanting" Jai Shri Ram: Fact-finding team

Counterview Desk
On April 10, 2019, Prakash Lakda, a 50-year old Adivasi of Jurmu village of Gumla’s Dumri block, was lynched to death by a mob of men from the Sahu community of neighbouring Jairagi village. Three other victims from Jurmu – Peter Kerketta, Belarius Minj and Janerius Minj – sustained severe injuries due to the beating by the mob. A fact-finding team of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), comprising of several activists and representatives of member organisations, conducted a fact-finding inquiry into the incident on April 14-15.

Investigation shows Narmada downstream "seriously" polluted. Reason: apathy, greed

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai*
Our investigation regarding quality of water flowing in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), dated April 6, 2019, between 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. reiterates, what is commonly known now, that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is planned without considering its impact on the downstream Narmada River stretch of 161 kilometres, its ecology, biodiversity and fishery, and lakhs of people living close to and dependent on the river directly or indirectly. This, in turn, has led to its present disastrous state.

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.