Sunday, August 1, 2010

No Value of Human Life: 42 laborers dead since work began

There have been 42 deaths at the Commonwealth Games construction sites since work began a few years ago while 16 more have been reported from the places where DMRC is hard at work to finish Metro projects before October. This information was revealed by the Union labor ministry in reply to a question raised in the Rajya Sabha. Though it was not clear whether all such deaths were due to accidents, Delhi Police confirmed almost all these deaths were ‘‘unnatural.’’

Several NGOs, however, cliamed the numbers were ‘‘too small’’and the accidents at the sites were hushed up. When contacted, DMRC officials said they had provided the figures after receiving instructions from the government. ‘‘We have collaborated the figure and sent it to the ministry,’’ said a source.

Talking to Times City, a senior officer from the New Delhi range told Times City there have been instances when police drew a blank in probing accidents at the Games sites as the work had been sub-contracted to smaller constructors. ‘‘Sometimes we had difficulty in locating a contractor as the bigger constructors had sub-let the work to a smaller one. In such cases it became difficult to pinpoint the one really responsible for the incident. However, we have always arrested those whom we found guilty,’’ claimed the officer.

Sources in Delhi police also said carrying out probes at DMRC sites was difficult. ‘‘This has nothing to do with the DMRC not cooperating with us. It has more due to to various technical aspects involved in each incident. The Zamrudpur investigations are such a case. We had to form our own committee led by experts from IIT-Roorkee to investigate the case,’’ said a senior crime branch officer.

The police said though there was a possibility that the number of injured could be fudged, there was no way to lie on the number of fatalities. ‘‘All deaths are reported to us regularly,’’ claimed the officer.

The NGOs, however, said civic bodies cannot be expected to report the right figures when they know that the information could be used against them. ‘‘You cannot expect the agencies to give you right figures. There has to be a responsible authority doing this work. The fact that just 25,682 laborers have been registered under the construction laborers’ welfare board points to the fact most of them are being taken for a ride by the agents who are not even paying them minimum wages,’’ said a JNU professor who is associated with an NGO.