By mid-2013, infrastructure projects worth more than Rs. 50,000 crore will be underway across the city. While the completed projects will make commute easier for Mumbaiites, until these projects are ready, they pose a safety hazard to those on site as well as to those who live and work in the areas near these projects.
While lakhs of Mumbaiites travel around the areas where infrastructure work is underway, around 6,500 labourers work at these sites.
The safety record of the contractors and the will of the government agencies that are supposed to monitor the under-construction projects leave a lot to be desired. In the past four years, 10 people have lost their lives at various infrastructure sites in Mumbai - this includes six workers and four civilians.
However, barring a fine of Rs 5 lakh for a pothole on Lalbaug flyover, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the nodal body for infrastructure projects, has not taken action against any errant contractors.
That the MMRDA is not serious about maintaining safety can be gauged from the fact that it has not got the final report on the Eastern Freeway accident, which killed one worker, 46 days after the July 19 incident.
The main reason for these accidents is the disregard for safety norms and the failure on the part of the state government to enforce the rules that are in place. Though safety measures are encapsulated in the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, the government barely monitors if these laws are being followed.
The safety of workers and the safety of the area around infrastructure site are regulated by private operators who are building these projects. The regulations are imposed by third-party safety auditors who are paid by the operators building the project so rarely does any safety auditor pass adverse remarks against the contractor building the project.
State officials admit that safety measures are not up to the mark, but make excuses for why it is tough to strict action against errant contractors. "Contractors for such massive infrastructure projects are limited, so it is not possible to backlist them as it will mean that no one will be available to construct these projects," a senior MMRDA official said, requesting anonymity.
NCP demands white paper on MMRDA projects
Objecting to the way in which the MMRDA has been working, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ministers, on Tuesday, demanded a white paper on the progress of the projects undertaken by the authority.