Workers’ organisations of Delhi honored brave rat miner workers

Report of Mazdoor Ekta Committee correspondent

The Joint Forum of Trade Unions of Delhi honored 12 rat mining workers at a function on 10th December 2023. These were the rat miners who had done the courageous work of rescuing the workers trapped in the Silkyara Tunnel.

Activists of trade unions and workers organisations from various sectors participated in the function in large numbers. 12 rat miner workers were present on the stage.

These workers are residents of Delhi and Bulandshahr of Uttar Pradesh. Workers living in Delhi reported that they have been working for many years in various underground pipe laying projects of Delhi Jal Board. They are very poor, daily wage laborers, who barely earn four-five thousand rupees a month if they get work. Often they do not get work in any construction project, so they earn their living by working as carpenters or doing other odd jobs. Their living conditions are very difficult, and the future of their children and families is bleak.

It is noteworthy that in 2014, the government’s National Green Tribunal had banned rat mining, or rat hole mining, terming it extremely dangerous. But despite this, this risky work continues in many areas of the country, with the full knowledge of the state administration. Apart from private corporate contractors, these laborers are also employed on contract in government institutions like Delhi Jal Board.

At a time when the construction company and many domestic and foreign experts failed to rescue 41 laborers trapped in the tunnel, the state administration contacted these rat mining laborers.

The entire gathering echoed with applause when the rat mining workers were being honored with citations and shields,. Slogans were raised – ‘Who makes India, the workers and farmers of the country!’, ‘Inquilab Zindabad!’. Rat mining workers honored were – Wakil Hasan, Munna Qureshi, Monu Kumar, Irshad, Firoz Qureshi, Naseem Malik, Naseer Khan, Jatin Kumar, Devendra, Saurabh, Ankur, and Rashid Ansari.

The rat miners spoke about the difficulties they faced in carrying out the rescue operation. He said that we are extremely happy and proud that we were able to contribute to this difficult task and rescue the workers trapped in the tunnel by digging. This rescue work is the result of the united action of all of us workers.

Representatives of the organizing organizations addressed the function. They said that the construction work of an of all-weather road to connect Char Dham in Uttarakhand is going on since 2018. The Central Government and the State Government have given this work on contract to a private company. It becomes clear from this accident that proper criteria of safety are not being followed in the construction of this tunnel.

The speakers explained that building a long tunnel in the Himalayan region is extremely risky. This area is extremely risk prone during heavy construction work. Due to the capitalist’s hunger for profit, uncontrolled construction work has been carried out in this area, which has led to many major and minor accidents and considerable loss of life and property.

Many facts were brought forward which prove that the contractor company is violating various necessary rules and provisions for the safety of workers working in the construction sector. As such, during the ongoing work in the Silkyara Tunnel, no alternative route was made for the workers to escape in case of emergency, which is mandatory during the work in the tunnel. Due to this, this accident occurred on 12th November 2023 and 41 construction workers were trapped in the tunnel for 17 days.

All the speakers condemned the dangerous working conditions of the workers and violation of safety norms. He said that the safety standards of workers are violated not only in the private sector but also in government construction projects, due to which major accidents occur every day.

It was pointed out that at a time when big machines had failed, these 12 rats mining workers, using their physical strength and risking their lives, safely rescued all the 41 construction workers trapped in the tunnel. In this, these workers showed unmatched courage. The speakers emphasized that the workers build and operate machines. When the machine stops working, it is the workers who open the way forward. Therefore, it is the first responsibility of the society to protect the life and health of the workers. Not doing so should be considered a grave crime of the state.

The speakers demanded that top officials of the central and state governments and officials of the contract company should be punished for this accident.

On behalf of Delhi Joint Trade Union Forum, a demand was made to the Labor Minister of Delhi Government that all these 12 rat mining laborers should be given financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh for their courageous work. These rat mining laborers, who are currently working on contract, should be registered immediately. All contract and irregular construction laborers should be registered and social security and other benefits should be provided to them. Along with this, safety norms should be strictly implemented in all the ongoing construction projects in Delhi.

Among those who addressed the function were – Sukumar Damle from AITUC, H.M.S. Rajendra Singh from H.M.S.,  Tapan Sen from CITU, Santosh Kumar from Mazdoor Ekta Committee, Shatrujeet from UTUC , Lata from Seva, Morya from L.P.F.,  Sucheta Dey from AICCTU, Narendra from ICTU, Dr. Animesh Das from I.F.T.U., Omkar Singh Tomar from INTUC, and Raghunandan from Jan Vigyan Andolan.

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One comment

  1. It was very heartening to read the report of the workers’ organisations of Delhi honoring the brave rat miners, who saved their fellow workers at great peril to their own lives.
    It should be noted that rat mining is banned in the country. In 2014, the National Green Tribunal ruled that rat mining is illegal as it results in fatal accidents of workers and it is hazardous to the environment. Not withstanding this ruling, the Indian Capitalists most ruthlessly continue to expose the workers to such life threatening risks in order to maximize their profits. It shows that provisions and safety regulations of the government are a sham.
    Given such terrible conditions, it is shocking that the new labour codes have suggested removal of Factory Inspectors and willing to accept the ”self certification” of the Capitalists that they are following the safety regulations! Government is openly allowing the capitalists to expose workers to any risks even at the cost of precious lives in order to ensure maximum profits.
    The brave and selfless efforts of these mine workers shows the honesty of the working class to their brothers who were facing the terrible risk of being buried alive.
    I am also reminded of the brave women workers of Border Road Organization who laid the necessary road to the hill spot to rescue the trapped workers by working day and night without rest braving the terrible weather conditions.
    In order to put an end to such risky exposures and to ensure proper working conditions and living standards, we workers must become rulers of this country. It is the selfish pursuit of profits by the capitalists that is the driving force of violation of the rights of workers.
    Yours Truly,

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