Playing with the Lives of Workers

Report of the correspondent of Mazdoor Ekta Committee

On 24th August 2023, repair work was going on at an old petrol pump building in Jalandhar District, Punjab. The roof of the petrol pump suddenly collapsed while it was being repaired, killing two workers and injuring another two.

This accident took place at the Lasada Petrol Pump located on the Phillaur to Nawanshahr road. While the roof was being repaired, a petrol pump attendant and another worker were standing below the roof, while two other workers were working on the roof. The two workers standing below the roof got buried under the debris and died. Two workers who fell from the roof were seriously injured.

Another accident related to construction work is from Delhi. On 24th August 2023, a wall of a factory under construction at Okhla Industrial Area, Phase-II, New Delhi, collapsed. Two workers died because they were buried under the collapsed wall. Those working in the factory reported that a basement was being dug. Although the workers had already warned the company owner that the wall could collapse anytime, the owner had completely ignored their warning. During the excavation, the wall of the basement suddenly collapsed. Some workers saved their lives by running away from the site, but many others were caught in the collapsing wall. Several  workers had to be excavated from the debris. Besides the two workers who lost their live, some others were seriously injured. The workers also reported that they were not given any safety kits while working on the site.

Another accident is related to construction workers in Mizoram. On 23rd August 2023, a portion of an under-construction railway bridge collapsed, killing several workers. This bridge is in Sairang, 20 kilometers away from the capital Aizawl. This incident happened around 10 AM. This bridge was being built over the Kurung river connecting Bairavi to Sairang. The bridge has a total of 4 pillars. The girder between the third and fourth pillar collapsed. At that time 35 to 40 workers were working on the bridge. The height of this bridge is 104 meters from the ground. According to available information, 22 workers died in this accident.

These accidents related to construction sector have occurred in a span of just two-three days. Such fatal accidents keep happening every day somewhere or the other across the country. As a result of unsafe working conditions and neglect of workers’ safety onsite, so many workers die every day in the construction sector due to a wall collapse, falling from a building, a mudslide, collapse of roof under construction, electrocution and fire, etc. Those workers who suffer serious injuries due to lack of proper safety measures become disabled for life. They become unfit to work again. They become dependants for live and have to live in this painful condition since they are not paid any compensation.

There are also no official figures available on the number of deaths due to accidents in the construction sector. At most construction sites, information about such accidents is suppressed by those in charge, in collusion with the government and administration. The government does not care about ensuring the safety of workers at construction sites.

The Indian state does not want to ensure safe working conditions for workers at workplaces. It considers this step as a major obstacle in the way of ensuring maximum profits for the capitalists. The capitalist avoids spending money on the safety and security of the workers. Capitalist owners and the government contract out construction work for a fixed amount. The contractor or the contracting company gets the assigned work done by spending minimum amount of money and extracting maximum work from untrained workers on contract, without providing any safety equipment to them. This is done to maximise  profit. The accidents at construction sites are the natural consequence of this insatiable greed to make maximum profits.

Health and safe working conditions are a fundamental right of workers. The working-class movement will have to intensify its united struggle to ensure this right.

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