Your space: PMC, builders must explain labour deaths, say Pune residents
Pune is known as the cultural capital of the state where people from all sections of society converge and grow. While labourers toil in various construction projects in the city, they should not be left to die such unfortunate deaths. Political and administrative representatives have failed to provide safety measures to the weaker sections of society. There are a few builders who do follow safety norms at construction sites, but there are some who don’t. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) should identify and categorise such builders or contractors and visit their construction sites for inspection. The inspection should be done every week or once in 15 days. The responsibility of the safety of labourers should be taken by builders, PMC and contractors equally.
Training on compliance and safety must
Safety at construction sites is a must as it deals with human life. The government authorities are to be blamed for the recent wall collapse incidents in Pune. There are dedicated departments who are assigned the job to look at the safety measures taken at construction sites. They have to monitor the safety of labourers as well. At any point if they find any activity not aligned to the law or compliance, they must take immediate lawful action and stop the work. But the builder must get some support from authorities in terms of training, guidelines on why his work was stopped so that he can fix the challenges and get approvals again. The officers responsible must initiate regular training around compliance and safety. However, builders and the contractors are equally responsible at the secondary stage to comply with the rules and guidelines laid by the government authorities.
Labourers need to be insured by contractors
In foreign countries like Singapore and the US , the responsibility of safety of labourers rests with the owners of the agency, employing the labourers related to construction, maintenance, cleaning, painting, roofing repairing among other workers. The labourers are covered by insurance (health, accident) provided by their employers. Proper temporary shelters are constructed for labourers. I have seen in Singapore that the building construction labourers are sheltered in proper housing, and taken to the work site, by transport arranged by the agency, at their cost to ensure safety and punctuality.
Negligence by PMC lead to wall collapse
After the two recent tragic wall collapse incidents in Pune where at least 20 construction labourers died, the chief minister surfaces putting the onus of blame on government officials. It is actually not wrong since the gigantic government machinery is run by corrupt officers. Among negligence by all authorities concerned, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) takes the lead in not framing and formalising a policy for retaining compound walls.
However, I want to ask the chief minister on what basis he assured the city builders’ powerful lobby last year in July that they won’t be booked for negligence or culpable homicide in case of deaths of labourers at construction sites? Whether it is accidental or deliberate is not the question. That is the job of the police who is the investigating and enforcement authority to establish. The point is that such an accident has happened on the site under the builder/promoter’s jurisdiction of construction. So, why should he/she be absolved?
There can be no argument that if the builder is the primary employer through contractors, he still cannot divest his responsibility to human safety and life. Did these unions take legal recourse, like they threatened to, for protection of those whose rights they are supposed to champion? Or did they just whimper and went to sleep until the next disaster? It is a fact which no one can deny that majority fly-by-night builders want to cut costs and corners to provide inhuman level of staying sites to the very labour who is constructing the buildings that they earn countless income from.
So, through your newspaper, I want to directly ask the CM as to why has he given this unfair shelter to builders’ union by assuring them that they will not be booked under a criminal offence. If any accident/fatality has happened on their construction site, it has to be first transparently investigated by the police and then must be treated as a criminal offence.
No value for life
Safety is certainly the responsibility of the developer. However, the bigger issue is the lack of value for life and the apathy. Innocent lives were lost in the Tiware dam breach and in the Kondhwa and Ambegaon wall collapse incidents. No action is taken against the officials responsible. Unless we hold every single person responsible for every single loss of life, the apathy will continue.
Safety around construction sites must
Most of the developers follow safety norms. We have safety officers at our sites, whose responsibilities are to make sure that everything taking place, work or otherwise, is safe especially during the monsoons. We take special care as the sites during rainy season may pose safety hazards to workers. Gradually, we have realised that now it is not just our site that we should be taking care of in terms of safety, but surroundings sites too, which seems to be the case in Kondhwa wall collapse. We have learnt a lesson this year and will henceforth also cover the areas around our construction sites.
Giving safety certificates without inspection
The safety norms are often disregarded when it comes to labourers. Some builders follow the safety norms, while those who are concerned about saving money, often overlook the rules. While the builders are responsible for the Kondhwa wall collapse incident, the PMC is also answerable for their disregard for safety norms. The PMC’s wall retaining policy, which was made in 2013, is just on paper. The civic authorities give safety certificates without inspecting the construction sites. Both the PMC and builders are to be blamed for the incident.
Submit monthly report of construction sites
A government official should be responsible for the safety at construction sites. It is a part of their duty, since they approve and give commencement certificate only after the developer has met the legal requirements, and obtained the relevant sanctions for the building’s plan. A monthly report has to be monitored and submitted of each site by them.
Provide safety gear to labourers
Builders are not paying enough attention to safety at construction sites. They should provide helmets, gloves and good shoes to labourers for their safety. The irony is that the work is given to a contractor, who brings in labourers from other states who work for less money, and provide them with makeshift huts. Construction workers belong to an unorganised sector of the industry so they don’t have anyone to fight for their rights. These workers need to be insured by contractors, but it is rarely done. So, if there is any mishap, the contractor can provide monetary aid to the labourers’ kin. No construction site is safe for labourers.