Ahmedabad, November 4 : No one knows the exact number of fatal accidents that took place at construction sites across the state in 2006. For, the figures available with the police and the Director, Industrial Safety and Health for the year contradict each other.

A Right to Information (RTI) petition filed by a body of construction workers, Bandhkam Mazdoor Sanghthan (BMS), with the police had revealed that 72 construction workers died at 58 on-site accidents between January 2006 to December 2006. At the same time, another RTI application before the Director, Industrial Safety and Health threw up a different figure for the same period — 31 fatalities in 25 accidents.

Significantly, while the police data was for the districts of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Gandhingar, Porbandar and Bhavnagar, the one by furnished by the Director, Industrial safety and Health are for the entire state. Vipul Pandya, general secretary, BMS, said, “It seems that the labour department has taken note of less than half the total number accidents that took place at construction sites.” Under Rule 240 of the Gujarat Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulations of Employment & Conditions of Service) Rules 2003, in case of any accident on a construction site that causes loss of life or disables a worker for 48 hours or more following the accident, it is mandatory to inform the labour commissioner of the area, the welfare board that the worker was registered with and the chief inspector of factories. Director, Industrial Safety and Health, N D Joshiara, says, “Whenever we come to know of unreported accidents, we file a criminal case against the employers. The concerned Industrial and Safety Health Officer also checks the site.

If accidents happen where there are less than 10 workers then the information would not reach us.” Pandya, however, adds, “Such cases are no more than 10 per cent of the total. Construction is labour intensive and the records with us show that most accidents take place at big construction sites.” The conflicting figures also underline the lackadaisical enforcement of the law. As Pandya says, “The employers are getting away without reporting the accidents. The law has failed to deter contractors and builders.”

Saurav Kumar Monday , November 05, 2007