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

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.