Workers’ lives and health are completely dispensable in the prevalent capitalist system

According to news reports, over 30 workers on construction sites or engaged in sewer cleaning, lost their lives in various work sites across the country in one week in March (16th March-22nd March) alone. The actual number of deaths is likely to be much higher, as a very large majority of such cases never get reported. The news reports do not include the number of workers injured at these worksites, often so gravely that they are unable to continue to work.

Workers_at_construction_siteWork on government construction sites and sewer cleaning is usually contracted out by a government department or a city’s municipal corporation, to private contractors, who with the full connivance of the authorities, defy all statutory requirements to ensure safety of workers.

One of the reported cases involved cleaning a15 foot deep underground sewer drain in the Mumbai suburb of Malad. The job was contracted out by the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) to a private contractor. Once the contract is given out, the BMC does not care to monitor the implementation of safety regulations.

Worker_cleaning_sewerThese are not isolated cases, but are the norm in this system. The BMC, like many other city municipal corporations, has cut back on its workforce and is increasingly contracting out many jobs to private contractors who employ casual labour without any responsibility for the safety of the workers.

On 22 March one worker died and eight others were injured when huge slabs on a bridge under-construction over River Kosi in Supaul in Bihar collapsed over them. The 10.5 km bridge is being built as part of the Central government’s ambitious Bharatmala Project, and is a joint venture between Gammon Engineers and Contractors Private Limited and Transrail Lighting Limited,

An under-construction five-floor apartment in Garden Reach area of Kolkata collapsed on 18th March, leaving 11 workers dead, including two women.

Such instances of collapse of bridges, flyovers and buildings under construction are very common in India. Even as our rulers boast of building modern infrastructure and even though a high degree of engineering expertise and technology is available, the authorities and private builders and contractors choose to hire casual workers at very low wages, and utilise the cheap manual labour available, to cut down the costs. The authorities and police turn a blind eye to the fact that statutory safety requirements are not ensured for these workers.

Every time such incidents occur, investigations are ordered and compensation to families of the victims are announced. But the capitalists and private contractors and the government authorities, whose callous neglect is responsible for these deaths, get away quite easily and rarely face serious criminal charges. The families of the victims are silenced with some meagre compensation and threatened with dire consequences if they speak up.

Greed of private companies and contractors for higher and higher profits, and of the state functionaries in cahoots with them, who collect heavy bribes in return for overlooking all safety requirements, are the prime reasons for this loss of precious human lives. It is a grave indictment of the prevalent capitalist system, in which the lives of workers are considered dispensable, because for every worker lost there are hundreds of others desperate for any means of livelihood and ready to risk their lives!

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