A week after a construction worker’s five-month old daughter was crushed to death under a contractor’s vehicle at a worksite at Ram Lal Anand (RLA) College at Delhi University’s South Campus, the college denied any responsibility denying its role as the principal employer of the contractors at two building sites where construction is on at the campus. Labour department officials were yet to take cognisance of the accident, they said.
“My sister-in-law and wife said had laid my daughter on the ground under the shade of a tree while they worked. When they saw the contractor Sabu Sharma’s vehicle, they asked the driver to take care that the baby was on the ground. Still, the driver somehow did not pay attention and ran her over. The driver tried to escape but my wife and brother stopped him and made him help them rush her to the Trauma Center at Safdarjung. She died on the way,” said Jagdish Madhukar, 25, his head tonsured after his daughter’s last rites.
The migrant from Chhattisgarh works as a mason with contractor VR Engineer at the college’s under-construction evening college building site. “The college principal told me he will call to share some information for compensation in 2-3 days but he did not. When I approached the contractor Sabu Sharma, he said he did not want to get involved in the matter and gave me Rs. 5,000 for my daughter’s last rites,” he said.
The Building and Other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996 says employers must provide a space which is clean, sanitary, well-ventilated to function as a crèche for use by children below six years of age if more than 50 female workers are employed at the site, and for first-aid facilities.
It empowers the government to make rules to ensure health and safety of workers, violation punishable by three months’ imprisonment and Rs. 2,000 fine. At RLA College, construction is on at two sites for building an underground water tank and a Rs. 4 crore-worth new building for holding evening classes, with over 50 female workers employed at both sites. But there are no such facilities available at the construction sites. College authorities denied their responsibility for providing these facilities, or for compensation to the Madhukar family.
“The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is carrying out the building work for the college by employing contractors. They will be liable, not us. The college is not involved in any way. We have asked the worker to meet us tomorrow in case he still needs any help,” said Dr. Jafri S. Shabih the principal for the evening classes held at RLA College.
Labour union members criticised the college authorities for passing the buck. “The CPWD may be the contracting body but the college will still be the principal employer. It can not wash its hands off its role as the principal employer,” said Subhash Bhatnagar, Secretary Nirmaan Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam. “During Commonwealth Games work, a child of a worker was killed after he fell and was crushed by a car. The public authories denied responsilibity but Delhi High Court held them responsible to pay compensation,” he said.
Labour department officials said both the principal employer and the contractor of the worksite would be held responsible but that the department was yet to take cognizance of the accident as they had not received any information about it. “We cannot take any action till we see the FIR. It is the employer’s responsibility to make the contractor comply with rules,” said Assistant Labour Commissioner Ajit Singh.