Builders, contractors follow rules more in the breach

When a building under construction collapsed burying the contractor alive at Garudachar­palya on July 5, all that the civic agencies could do was cancel permissions.

Alth­ough a local government, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has no power to ensure the safety of labourers at construction sites, says Prasanna Kumar, general secretary, Centre for Indian Trade Unions. 

Kumar stresses on the need to either amend the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act or bring in a new law to empower the BBMP to ensure the safety of labourers at construction sites.

As far as the welfare of labourers is concerned, the BBMP collects one per cent labour welfare cess from the amount it charges for sanctioning a building plan. The amount goes to the Labour Welfare Fund, which is managed by the Karnataka State Labour Welfare Board (KSLWB). To enjoy the benefits under the scheme, labourers need to enrol themselves with KSLWB. However, of the seven lakh construction workers in the City, only about 50,000 are enrolled with the Board, because most labourers are not aware of the benefits offered by it.

According to Kumar, there is a need for a smart card system where labourers can avail of the benefits under the labour laws anywhere in India. The acute shortage of staff has prevented the KSLWB from frequently checking labourers’ safety at construction sites.

As per the Prevention of Child Labour Act, a crèche is mandatory at all major construction sites where children must be given elementary education, besides play material, to keep them away from untoward incidents and health hazards. This law is not followed by builders in the City, alleges Prasanna Kumar.

“Neither the KSLWB nor the BBMP is bothered to see whether these rules are followed strictly in the interest of labourers and their family members,” says Kumar.

He also blames builders and contractors for not adhering to labour laws and child labour protection laws. He stressed on the need to amend labour laws to make builders and contractors accountable for any mishap.

“Builders, contractors and labour officers easily slip away whenever there is a tragedy. These people should also be made responsible for mishaps involving them. But this warrants an amendment to labour laws,” says Kumar who highlighted the need for skill development to avoid accidents at construction sites. “The KSLWB must play a pro-active role,” he says.

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