Saturday's mishap at Bandra when a car ran over seven labourers sleeping on the pavement, besides highlighting the increasing incidents of drunken driving, also brings to fore the pitiable living conditions of migrant labourers in the city.
Twenty-eight year-old Rajamma Vedar, living in a road-side shanty at Anik Nagar, Wadala, is one such labourer. Staying by the kerbside has become a way of life. Every six months or so, she has to shift to a new pavement when she and her family move on to a new construction site in the city.
Right from childhood, Rajamma, a native of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh has been in Mumbai and has been involved in road construction projects. "We have become used to all the perils of staying on roads but do we have a choice," asked Vedar.
"I am more worried about my three year old kid as he also tends to run towards the street," said Vedar. The Carter Road mishap has frightened her but she has no option but to continue to live by the roadside, she says.
In the last two years, almost all the agencies like the MMRDA, the MSRDC and the BMC have undertaken large-scale construction of roads across the city. The civic body itself has embarked 61 kms covering 107 roads in the first phase.
This requires large number of labourers and the BMC in its tender condition has allowed for construction of mobile huts near the site of construction. The condition also specifies adequate toilet facility for the labourers as well restricts them from bathing or defecating on streets. However, the realty is otherwise and except for tin sheds, there are no other facilities.
"We men bath near the site itself while public toilets are used by our women," said Manish Singh, a labourer.
For thousands of labourers, life near construction sites have become a routine phenomenon. They are paid a daily wage ranging between Rs 70 to Rs 200 according to the task they perform.
Previously, it was a monopoly of people hailing from Andhra Pradesh but now even people from the Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal undertake this work.
"I have seen many accident myself especially at night when cars speed at high speed and we are helpless. We leave all to the fate," said Jay Sarangi,A WORKER who hails from Bihar.
Another problem is the education of their kids which is disturbed due to constant shifting and the result is even minors are roped in the task.
However BMC has put the onus on the contractor with regards to the workers. "The contractor should be responsible for his staff and should take adequate steps to protect them," said Civic Standing Committee Chairman Ravindra Vaikar.
AV Deshingkar, Additional Metropolitan Commissioner of the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) said that it isn't practically possible to provide all construction workers temporary accommodation in win Mumbai.
"Tender notices issued to contractors from MMRDA do not contain any clause wherein workers have to be provided accommodation. In Mumbai, because of space crunch, it can't be possible to provide space for them everywhere. In the districts, however, there are labour colonies. There are other conditions under Labour Law of providing minimum wages," said Deshingkar.