Risking lives to build lives


With multiple construction sites cropping up in Bengaluru, the city has a number of construction workers who work, sometimes to death, to earn their living.

By Yashasvini Razdan

Saddam Hussien toiled every day at the construction site for two meals a day. Little did he know that one granite rock would take away his livelihood and his land in the village.

“I was working at the site when a granite rock fell on me and broke my hip bone. My condition was critical and I had to be taken to a private hospital. The treatment cost me Rs. five lakh.”

Like Saddam, there are many construction workers in Bengaluru, who work in a hazardous environment with no safety measures. The Central Crime Records Bureau (CCRB) has recorded seven construction worker deaths in January 2020 alone. Last year, the number of deaths was 75.

The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulations of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (BOCW Act) specifies the rules regarding the safety of construction workers.

Mr Srinivas, the Director of the Department of Factories, Boilers, Industries, Safety and Health said, “The sites whose cost of construction is more than Rs. 25 crores are kept under check by our department, in case they flout the safety rules regarding construction sites. We inspect the sites and if builders flout the rules, we file a criminal case against them.”

Mr Dhananjaya, an official at the Labour Department said that the Karnataka government has developed 19 welfare schemes under the BOCW Act. “A construction worker must register as a beneficiary by submitting a few documents along with a subscription fee of Rs. 25 for a year to avail the benefits of these schemes,” he said.

Saddam who wasn’t aware of the benefits that could be availed by him said that he had fought with the builder to get 50 percent of his treatment cost sponsored. “Since I could not come to work for more than seven days, the contractor employed someone else and now I don’t have work,” he added.

Mr Gopinath, the founder of Sparsha Trust, an NGO which works for the welfare of construction labourers and their families said that many construction workers are injured while working. “While there are schemes and laws by the government to ensure their safety, the implementation is flaccid. It is where non-governmental organizations have to step in to protect the rights of these people,” he said.

“Construction workers are usually migrant workers who come to the city looking for better opportunities and facilities. They get pushed into construction work and lack awareness about all their rights. Efforts need to be made to raise awareness about these schemes and the Labour Department should ensure that construction workers register under these schemes,” he said.