The collapse of under-construction buildings is a common feature in India. This problem is the result of many reasons including corruption, gross-negligence and gross-violation of law. Such collapses cause financial and other losses to builders and owners. In turn, this is a loss to national properties. The accidents during building and other construction works are also very common. They may be singular but creates multiple consequences. Such accidents are big challenges for the society and even humanity. It is difficult to understand why the collapse of building is taken seriously than the deaths of building workers during the course of employments.
Needless to mention it is a pious obligation and constitutional duty of the State to secure to all workers a living wage, conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life and full enjoyment of leisure. In this regard, Article 43 of the Constitution of India must be remembered. Not only that, the directive principle proposes the safety and welfare of the workers but Article 21 of the Constitution directs that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to established by law.
Whether deprivation of life and health of building workers by making violation of safety provision of law does not come within the purview of breach of fundamental rights of workers? Whether employers or builders and law enforcement authorities of the State cannot be held guilty for the violation of fundamental rights in such accident cases?
The parliament in 1970 enacted the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. In 1976 another important law, Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 was enacted. Two more important legislations came into force i.e. the Building & Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and the Building & Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996 which cover maximum issues relating to building workers.
Though these legislations are very effective measures to address the safety and welfare matters but implementation of these provisions is very slow. In other words, the executive performance of the State shows that the problem of building workers’ health and safety is beyond control. Particularly in Madhya Pradesh, the building workers work in hazardous situations. The migrated, poor and unskilled building workers are exploited and this can be witnessed in any city or town.
The Madhya Pradesh Building and Other Construction (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2002 imposes various responsibilities on different officers of the Labour Department, the Industrial Health and Safety Department, the Police Department and the District Administration. But in these departments, the officers are not genuinely and seriously interested in addressing the issues of building workers. It is most unfortunate that there is no co-ordination between the aforementioned departments of the State. Due to this, all the central laws mentioned above only have ornamental values.