Skip to main content

India's 80% construction sites "unsafe", deaths 20 times higher than those in Britain

By Rajiv Shah
The Government of India may be seeking to project India’s construction sector as the country’s second-largest employer of the country after agriculture, providing jobs to more than 44 million people, and contributing nearly 9% to the national GDP, yet, ironically, its workforce is more unprotected than any other industrial sector of the country. Data suggest that the possibility of a fatality is five times more likely in the construction industry  than in a manufacturing industry, and the risk of a major injury is 2.5 times higher.
A recent seminar in Ahmedabad, organized by the Bandhkam Majoor Sangathan (BMS) with the participation of workers, activists, builders, occupational health experts and government officials, was told that a British Safety Council study reveals revealed that not only do construction workers in India enjoy no legal protection, their on-site deaths is 20 times higher than those in Britain, 25% of the deaths result from falling from a height, and nearly 80% of the workers work in unsafe environment.
“Ironically, this is one of the rare data that we have on construction workers in India”, said Vipul Pandya of BMS, which workers among Gujarat’s construction workers. “All that we know, from random sources, is that 38 construction workers die every day working on sites. However, neither the Government of India, nor the International Labour Organization, has any authentic data which could suggest the plight of a sector which employs such a huge workforce.”
An attempt to collect data by Pandya with the help of BMS volunteer Darshan Patel, a civil engineer by profession, has revealed that in Gujarat – which accounts for nearly 13% of all construction sector investment in the country, next only to Maharashtra (25%) – the number of deaths as a result of fatal accidents were 137 in 2018, the highest in a decade. In 2017, there were 67 deaths, 2016 saw 55 deaths, 2015 saw 62 deaths, and 2014 saw 69 deaths.
Death of construction workers in Gujarat
Obtained by filing Right to Information (RTI) pleas with Gujarat Police and newspaper clippings, the data further show that 49% of the deaths in Gujarat took place by falling from height, followed by 21% deaths by buried under debris. In 74% of accidents, no FIR is registered. “FIR is registered only in cases of death. Even if the injury disables a person for a longer period, no FIR is registered”, says Patel.
Other data suggest that 38% of the victims of the accidents at construction sites were in the age group 19-28, followed by 16% in the age group 29-38; 37% were locals, followed by 21% from another village or town in the state, and 17% from outside Gujarat; 84% of victims worked on private sector sites, while the rest were from state-owned sites; and while Ahmedabad experienced 15% of fatal accidents, followed by Rajkot (14%) and Vadodara (12%), as many as 39% accidents took place among smaller cities or towns.
Reasons for so many fatal accidents are many, including lack of awareness among workers ranging from contractors refusing to enforce safety equipment on workers at construction sites, lack of awareness among workers, and lack of government site inspection (there is just one inspector in India for every 506 registered units). “Even civil engineers, who are the key persons to oversee construction, are not trained into safety”, said structural engineer Rajendra Desai.
Apart from fatal accidents, the construction industry workers are at risk of getting several occupational diseases, including dermatitis, asbestosis, silicosis, muscular skeletal disorder, respiratory diseases, etc., all of which lead to disability and slow death. These could be avoided in case there are enough physicians who are experts in occupation disease.
Dr Kamlesh Sarkar, director, National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), said, “No doctors are taught about occupational health. I am trying to push the government towards this.” Suggesting how preventive care can help overcome some of the diseases, Dr Sarkar said, “The workers shouldn’t be made to work in the afternoon when the temperature is high. Telangana has taken such a step, which is now being followed by Tamil Nadu.”
Dr Shyam Pingle, occupational health specialist with the Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Gandhinagar, said, “There is just one occupational diseases course of three months in the country. It began after the Bhopal gas disaster. In all, 2,800 doctors have so far taken up the course. There are just four Employees State Insurance (ESI) centres for occupational diseases in the country – none of Gujarat.”
The result is, lack of awareness about occupational diseases in India. “In India, there were 70,000 to 80,000 workplace accidents in 2011. However, there were 3,20,000 cases of occupational diseases, which is four times as high. Unfortunately, we are unable to see slow death because of such diseases”, said Dr Pingle.
The government's attitude for such state of affairs remains under scanner. The Gujarat government has started 36 Dhanvantari mobile clinics, which go to construction sites for health checkup. However, admits Dr Amrish Vaidya, involved with the state government, none of the mobile clinics have occupational disease specialists. The data collected under the scheme suggest higher percentage of occupational diseases: 25% suffered from respiratory issues, 12% from skin diseases, and 10% from body ache.
There is no way workers can get compensated in case of long-term disability as a result of either an accident or an occupational disease. Testimonies suggested that a worker in Keshod, Junagadh district, who fell down from a height, was without wages for 15 days when he couldn’t go to work. Another worker was told he couldn’t be compensated for his disability because he was “not registered” with the state welfare board.
A third one, a woman worker, met with a major accident. While the contractor agreed to support the worker till she fully recovered, the support stopped after three more months, though the disability continued for six months. “Women, accompanying their husbands to work to construction sites, are mostly illiterate and unskilled, hence are made to do heavy manual work, delivering bricks and other construction material. This puts them at risk with muscular skeletal diseases”, said Ramilaben of the Self-Employed Women’s Association, Ahmedabad.

Comments

Uma said…
Not just construction workers, even the men who work in sewers are at risk. For this, the contractor and the government are both equally to blame. Add to this, the ignorance of the workers about their rights and their desperate need to work even for a pittance, and you get the most shameful situation compared to any civilised country.....and all this after 70+ years of independence.

TRENDING

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative  Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India , a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously. The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas. “The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicit

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Electoral bonds scheme 'compromises' voluntary nature PM relief fund donations

By Rosamma Thomas*  The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is meant to collect voluntary donations from the general public, either individuals or organizations, to enable assistance to people in times of natural disaster, or for expensive medical treatment. That fundamental voluntary character of the fund, however, has changed in recent years.  The gazette notification of January 2018 announcing the Electoral Bond scheme states, in Clause 12 (2): “The amount of bonds not encashed within the validity period of fifteen days shall be deposited by the authorized bank to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”. The Union government has, thus, through notification, directed funds to be deposited into what was meant to be purely voluntary. Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been campaigning for transparency in government functioning, holds that once a gazette notification has been issued directing that funds be deposited into the PMNRF, the character of the whole fund has changed,

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization

Majoritarian silence helping Hindutva forces 'handover' national resources to corporates

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The majority of Indian citizens are witnessing the persecution and everyday violence against their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities. The growing assaults on reason, science, secularism, Indian democracy and constitution are going to be landmarks in Indian history of diminishing democracy and citizenship rights. It is clear that Hindutva ideology is directly promoting sectarian politics of hate which is dangerous for the unity and integrity of India, peace and prosperity of Indians. The majoritarian silence helps in empowering Hindutva and their electoral dividends. From witnessing the persecution in the sidelines to the active participation and cheering loud or silence accelerates violence against our neighbours and our fellow citizens. How and why do majority of Indians stay silent and contribute to the persecution of their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities? The question baffles me as an Indian because I have gr

Electricity Bill: Centre's reform measures contain 'carrot and stick package' for states

Counterview Desk  The Peoples’ Commission on Public Sector and Public Services (PCPSPS), claiming to be a network of eminent academics, jurists, erstwhile administrators, trade unionists and social activists, seeking consultations with stakeholders with those who are against the government’s decision to monetise, disinvest and privatise public assets/enterprises, has said that the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill-2022 will have far-reaching impacts on the finances of states. Insisting that the proposed Bill would lead to “assault on India’s federal structure”, in a statement, it says, it would weaken the finances of states’ power distribution companies, have adverse impact on utility employees, cripple the states' finances, impose a heavy cost burden on the smaller subsidized consumers (especially farmers), and benefit only corporate business houses. “States cannot afford to ignore the far-reaching implications of the Bill on their economy, finances, agricultural and industria

Cops 'refuse to register' complaint after BSF shot landless worker off Bangla border

By Our Representative  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convener, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), referring to the incident of “firing and execution” of a poor Muslim youth, has alleged that the 26 year old was was shot at “without giving any warning” one and half kilometers inside the Indian territory from Bangladesh border by an on- duty Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. Stating that the person, Ruhul Mondal, belonged to an Other Backward Class (OBC), and hailed from Ramnarayan Para village under Sagarpara police station in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Roy in his representation said, the BSF person who shot at him is “attached with Singpara Border Outpost, 141 Battalion”, underlining, the BSF has now floated “self defense theory” to cover up its operation. According to the BSF officials, the incident took place in the jute fields in