Srinagar, Jan 05: The workers at the construction sites in the valley could be seen playing with death every day, as a majority of them work without proper safety gears.
Helmets have been replaced by winter caps, sweaters are considered site uniforms to go with torn gloves and boots.
“You see there?” said a labourer Tariq Ahmad Lone, pointing out at the bricks kept on the second floor of an under-construction building.
“God forbid brother, if those bricks fall down, I can’t even imagine the way we will be injured,” Lone said.
Lone works at the construction site just at the entrance of the Department of Tourism’s office.
“If we die, great. Worse is we can get paralysed for life,” Lone added.
Right then, another worker at the site, Shanwaz Ahmad, came down in pain and handed over Rs 10 to Lone, asking him to get a band-aid from a nearby shop.
A minor cut had left Ahmad’s middle finger bleeding, reason being the torn gloves which were of no use.
Asked as to why no proper gloves were provided, Ahmad said, “Who told you these gloves were provided to us? No, we on our own bought these. No safety gears have been given to any of us.”
“These boots too,” he added, showing his ripped shoes which must have been endlessly stitched by a number of cobblers.
Not just these workers are exposed to life-threatening conditions at work, but are also a victim of the callous attitude of the authorities at the construction site.
Javid Gojjr, a 23-year-old helper at the construction site of the grade separator near TRC, shared how he along with his colleagues “feared” the authorities.
“We work here from 9am to 5pm, and that’s because the days are shorter. In summers, we are even asked to work for 12 hours straight. Really unfair, keeping in mind the wages we get,” he said.
Gojjr refused to disclose his earnings.
However, as per other workers at the construction sites near TRC, they, on an average, earn Rs 400 per day, including food and travel.
Site Engineer for the grade separator, Aijaz Ahmad, blamed the labourers.
As per him, the workers are “frequently asked” about their whereabouts and needs.
Talking about the lack of safety gears, he said, “These workers themselves don’t like wearing gears, especially helmets. They give silly excuses. However, I assure you, everyone will be provided basic gears within a week, and anyone refusing to take it will be fired.”
Just two days back, a worker at RAMKY construction site had to lose his life due to non-availability of safety gears.
His colleague, Shahid Wani had taken the issue to the twitter, where he wrote, “He lost his life today on site of RAMKY due to non-availability of safety measures. No safety belt while falling. Blacklist the company immediately. They cannot play with innocent lives. @MehboobaMufti @HaseebDrabu @JKLawmin @parawahid.”
To which Minister for Labour & Employment, Haseeb Drabu, tweeted back.
“No words can console, no compensation enough. Will ensure safety on sites & get safety audit done. Company won’t get away with this,” he wrote.
As per the data, between 2013 and 2016, a total of 1,092 deaths and 377 injuries have occurred while working at the construction all across the India.
The reports say that the workers are mostly men in the most productive age group of 18 to 45 years and either have parents or young children as dependants.
Talking to The Kashmir Monitor, Drabu said he was planning strict actions to ensure the safety of the labourers in the state.
“I have the overall picture, and I am going to look into the matter. I am planning to launch an Accidental Health Disability Insurance Scheme for the labourers. Also, making the safety gears mandatory is as well a part of my vision,” he assured.