Friday, May 29, 2009


Published Date: 22/5/2009 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, May 21: IT was just another day for 32-year-old Murugan, a construction worker from suburban Kallikuppam area, when he left home for masonry works at a flat near Mogappair, here. As he stood on bamboo post, plastering on the second floor of a newly constructed building, he lost balance and fell. He suffered fracture and spine injuries. He is yet to get compensation.

Six months have gone by, his parents and two small children are struggling to eke out a living, as the sole breadwinner is now bedridden. Not only Murugan, there are several construction workers in the State who suffer from unsafe work conditions at worksites besides issues related to less salary, says V Ranganathan, general secretary of Akila India Kattida Thozilalargal Mathya Sangam.

While we blame the poor safety setup at construction sites, many workers never thought of registering their names with the state-government instituted Construction Labour Welfare Board to claim any compensation during extreme situations, he added.

Had he registered with the welfare board, Murugan could have received some compensation from the government, Ranganathan said. According to R Geetha, president of Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, Tamil Nadu, the State alone has an estimated 35-40 lakh construction workers falling under 38 types of works. But official figures from the welfare board say only 19.40 lakh construction workers have registered.

They were classified under 38 sub-categories including mason, senior helper, painter, plumber and shuttering persons, junior helpers and carpenters, just to make them eligible for different schemes announced by the state government. “Besides the safety issue, we used to get complaints about underpayment for workers, but the latter one is more prevalent among migrant labourers from Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar,” Geetha says.

It is due to the role of agents in bringing them in for big projects in the state. While labourers say that both safety and less wage are burgeoning issue among them, state’s Labour Commissionerate say they did not receive a single complaint on both the issues from any construction worker so far.

According to a top official, while there were no complaints from individuals, they do receive five to 10 complaints every month, mainly from construction workers’ related unions on safety issues and not on low wages. Compulsory registration for construction labourers would entitle them to claim benefits such as compensation and scholarships for their children, opined Geetha.

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