Newskarnataka – Mangalore
By Sandhya Soans
Mangalore’s real estate is being developed at a frenetic pace. We see construction activity all around us. There are a number of contractors that are involved in this activity. Some of them actively fulfill all the guidelines prescribed by various building and labour laws and some turn a blind eye at least in part to some of them. This helps them meet construction budgets and timelines. Construction labour which consists of both locals and those from other parts of Karnataka and north india, are often a neglected lot in this race for contracts and timeframes.
Take the recent case, when at a construction site at derebail on April 30th, a construction laborer, Kasappa, of badami origin, died and two others were seriously injured in a land slip. A day later, construction activity was seen at the site going on in full swing. So was it just a freak accident or will it happen again? especially with the monsoon around the corner and april showers and thunderstorms already bringing unexpected and unscheduled rain? Was the contractor responsible for not taking adequate preventive measures, or the civic authorities – corporation and labor authorities not diligent enough in enforcing building regulations and safety measures?
Have the causes of the land slip been examined? Have preventive measures been put in place? Is life of construction labour so cheap and the construction budget and timeline so important that the activity should start the very next day without finding answers to these questions. There remain several unanswered questions.
The provisions of Building and Other Construction Workers (RECS) Act, 1996 and Central Rules (1998) are important in this regard, especially chapter II and Chapter VI of the rules which deal with responsibilities of various stake holders involved in the construction activity and rules regarding the safety and health of the Workers respectively. Some degree of self and external enforcement will surely lead to a safer working environment for the worker.
Adding to the woes of workers, the Contractor of Victoria builders has allegedly not taken all the prescribed safety measures that were required during the construction the construction activity. Sources indicated that the construction of the retaining wall was commenced after the building foundation was completed and complaints were received from the neighbours who found themselves on shaky ground. Moreover it is also seen that the amount of space between the retaining wall and the building wall is not as per the prescribed requirement which is hazardous both during construction and post construction in times of emergency. When Newskarnataka tried to talk to the contractor, he showed no interest in explaining the situation and disconnected the call.
It is learnt that the labourers who died / got injured were digging a hole near the wall when the mud suddenly gave way and the wall collapsed on them. However if a retaining wall had been built prior to the building, this could have perhaps been prevented. The neighbours, whose houses are on the periphery have expressed their apprensions that their houses may sink and collapse too due to the proximity to the edge of the excavation.
This is not the first time that such an instance has occurred – Last year on November 20, construction labourers were trapped in a landslip that occurred at a hillock at Derebail, when they were building a retaining wall. A labourer had died in the incident, after which the Mangalore City Corporation temporarily suspended the construction permit and demanded details of the incident from the owner, but this time apparently there has been no inquiry, or probe as the construction has started right-away.
Only time will tell whether we will have to report on another tragedy or not. We certainly hope not.