Problems of Construction Labours: A Qualitative Research


By

Prof. Dileep Kumar M.
Ex-Professor
Symbiosis (SCMHRD, SCDL), IIIT, SCMLD, SBS
Pune
 


Introduction

Modernization and industrialization has paved a good way to the construction industry. Small towns and cities become more urbanized and , the construction sector too has got a boost. Irrespective of occasional slumps in the economy or in construction works, the sector is going through a faster growth. Apart from old / traditional urban/ industrial centres, new industrial/urban centres have appeared on the map where construction works are going on large scale. Expanding and fast growing construction sector and, in general, lack of greater employment opportunity elsewhere has drawn large number of workers in this sector. There are more than 20 million of construction workers in India at present. Cities, like Delhi alone has around more than 600 thousand of them. Apart from metros other cities, like Jamnagar in Gujarat, Guwahati & Shillong in the Northeast are also expanding at fast rate.

Migration from different states to other stares in India has now become so rampant that its impact is felt in every aspect of life.  Migration become a way of life to many, who are unskilled and semi skilled and find difficult to get better jobs within their natives and locality.  These migrant workers are spread across the width and length of the country. Construction labourers are labourers who are migrated from different regions and states leaving their native villages in search of daily job. These people in general are nomadic in their life and usually do not return to their birthplace or natives. They travel from one area of work to other area along with their families and live in a place, which is either provided by the owner of the construction company or somewhere near by, building temporary shelters.  They have maximum mobility because of the nature of their work. These labourers are engaged in huge industrial constructions, residential flat constructions, city beautification works, These construction labourers, as a part of unorganized work force remain the most exploited ones even after five decades of independence. In the recent past the trend shows that all big cities of country have become the centres to recruit casual labourers as construction labourers to cities and urban areas. Most of the construction labourers migrate to cities and metros are from poor families and are illiterate. Their lack of education and skill make their choice very limited. When they come to big cities, they have to face number of problems because of their inexperience and lack of skill.  They become easy victim of exploitation and have to work for their day today sustenance. The present study is to analyse the extend of construction labourers problem in Pune, Maharashtra in which the construction business is booming is a vast proportion and there is greater migration of business class people, blue collar officers, IT employees, students etc. Since need of accommodation is essential, the construction industry also finding their business in its highest level.

Research Methodology

This particular research follows the qualitative research methodology.  A questionnaire was prepared and it is subjected to pilot study. Direct personal interview technique is used to collect data from the construction labourers. 82 construction sites in Pune locality considered for the study. The Study followed descriptive study design. The entire research took about 8 months to complete the data collection. The data thus generated is subjected to classification and grouping since the study is qualitative nature. Considering the close similarity of the replies grouping is done. No statistical tool implemented for analyzing the data since the purpose of the study is to understand the severity of the problems alone.

Review of literature

Deshkal Society in their online article (2004) it is reported that:

1. Being part of unorganized sector of labourers, they lose in bargaining for fair wages. They are not paid minimum wages; even the agreed wages are not paid in time. Even after the construction work is over, substantial due remains with the builders or the contractors, who are always on the look for devouring these due wages.

2. Moreover, their working time and hours are not well regulated. They do not get overtime rates for excess work. They work under very hazardous conditions. The working conditions and the facilities provided at the sites are far from satisfactory. Safety conditions and measurers are hardly met. In case of accident, there is, in general, no provision for financial and medical aid. It is up to the workers themselves to arrange for the treatment. There is no scheme like ESI coverage for them. In the extreme cases like death, no body owns the responsibility.

3. Apart from these, there is no recreational facilities, no availability of drinking water, toilets, canteens etc.

4. If the workers are female, the problems at work site and while commuting gets compounded and multiplied. More so if they are pregnant or having small children. There is no system at all to take care of these children at work site. And they just cannot take leave out of work during this period lest they would face extreme financial problems.

5. The living conditions are no way better than the working conditions. It will not be entirely wrong to say that the situation is still worse. They are destined to live in slums where one does not get proper (at all) civic amenities. The surroundings are totally unhygienic. There are no proper facilities for drainage, toilet, potable water, electricity, recreation etc. There are no local medical facilities, hospital, school and fair price shop.

6. Besides the problems and woes discussed above, the construction workers have no social security & benefits in terms of labour welfare measures & provisions. They don't have provisions like pension and insurance schemes, maternity leave, accident and death claims, concession loans and financial aid for children's education and medical needs.

Research findings

Major findings of the study can be stated as follows:

1. 66.7% of construction companies consist of 100-200 labourers.

2. Majority construction labourers are living in Tin sheet (71.5%), Rubber sheet shed (17.8%) and Huts (10.7).

3. Builder Company arranged temporary shed to labourers (22.8%) within the site.

4. A majority percentage of labourers (66.0%) are living in self-constructed temporary sheds near by construction sites.

5. Builder made electricity provision (27.8%) in their temporary sheds,

6. A considerable percentage of labourer's are having temporary sheds  (71.7%) haven't any electricity provision.

7. The sanitation and hygiene of the construction site and the temporary shed are very poor (75.4%).

8. 73.8% of sites do not have any toilets or toilets having substandard quality.

9. 20.4 % of construction sites making provision of drinking water.

10. A considerable percentage of labourers have to depend on various sources like Bore well (34.1%), Tanker Lorry water (31.4%), public water supply (13.7% etc.

11. 29 % of sites do not have any water provision or water having substandard quality for washing.

12. A considerable percentage of construction labourers have to depend on other water sources for washing viz., open well (11.4%), public water supply (44.2%), Bore well (11.5%) etc.

13. 8.7% construction companies haven't any facility for washing at all.

14. Around 10.7% of sites having water facility for washing cloths.

15. Majority construction labourers have to take open bath (63.3%), as there is no adequate provision for bathrooms.

16. Nearly a quarter (26.7%) hasn't any bathroom at all.

17. 72.2% of the companies do not pay medical cost incurred to the labourers.

18. In 18.8% construction companies, builder and the labourers have to meet the medical cost incurred partially.

19. 64.2% construction companies pay only 50-100 Rs per day to their labourers.

20. 12.8% construction companies pay 100-150 Rs per day to their labourers.

21. Construction companies, which pay 150 Rs and more found only few percentage only (3.6%).

22. 38.4% of the construction companies pay 151-200 Rs per day to the skilled labourers.

23. The construction companies (30.4%) pay only 41-60 Rs per day to the unskilled labourers.

24. While 7.2% companies pay 61-80 Rs per day to their labourers.

25. 74.2% of construction companies are not making provision of medical leave facilities.

26. 2.2% construction companies made provision of medical leave facilities to their labourers.

27. While 12.3% provided medical leave to their labourers, but unofficially.

28. 64.8% of companies don't provide maternity leave to their labourers.

29. 12.5% of companies are making provision of maternity leave.

30. While 13.8 % of construction companies provided maternity leave, but unofficially.

31. 14.7% construction companies are making provision of holidays to their labourers.

32. While considerable percentages (66.8%) of companies doesn't provide holidays to their workers.

33. The reports lack adequate information regarding the holiday availability to the construction labourers. (42.8%).

34. 63.5% of companies are not making provision of compensation benefits.

35. 77.2% of companies are not making provision of insurance benefits.

36. Majority construction companies (67.2%) do not make provision of helmets to their workers.

37. While a considerable percentage (15.9%) does not make provision of helmets to their workers.

38. Majority construction companies (52.0%) make provision of Hand Gloves and Shoes to their workers.

39. While a considerable percentage (29.0%) does not make provision of Hand Gloves and Shoes to their workers.

40. Majority construction companies (44.9%) make provision of Safety Belts to their workers.

41. While a considerable percentage (25.4%) does not make provision of Safety Belts to their workers.

42. The reports lack adequate information regarding Safety Belts (29.0%) to labourers.

43. 55.4% of construction companies do not make provision of 'eye wear for cutting iron road to their workers.

44. 69.1% companies do not make provision of safety materials and equipments to their workers in the construction site.

45. In majority construction sites (66.2%) labourers have to work 8 hours having a spread over of 10-11hr in a day.

46. While some construction sites (11.6%) labourers have to work 9 hours having a spread over of 11-12hr in a day.

47. Dal, Rotty Rice and Vegetables are the major food items (38.4%) of construction labourers. 

48. 70.3% of construction companies are not making provision of food to their labourers.

49. 79.7% of construction companies are not making provision of 'Crèches' to the labourers' children.

50. 74.2% of construction labourers' children are illiterate. They are either at home or wandering here and there in the site when their family members engaged in work.

51. While a considerable proportion of laborer's family consider 'migration from one place to another as their problem to educate children (510.3%), some percentage (36.1%) economic problem to maintain the education and family.

Discussion

The study indicates the plight of the construction labourers in Pune, district Maharashtra state.  Majority construction labourers are migrated from different regions from Maharashtra. The construct ion sites have more than 100 labourers. The living conditions are so poor and the labourers are staying in tin sheeted and rubber sheeted houses. Some construction companies are making provision of accommodation facilities to the labourers. While majority labourers have to build temporary huts by themselves, near by the site.

The construction company is not making provision of any electricity of sanitation facility to the construction labourers. The sanitation hygiene of the construction site and the labourer's houses found poor condition. Majority sites do not have any toilets. Where the sites have toilets there it is having substandard quality. There is limited provision of drinking water and the labourers have to depend on bore well, tanker lorry water and public water supply. The construction company is not making provision of water facility for washing cloths and cleaning their utensils. There also the labourers have to depend on open well, public water supply, bore well, etc. Some of the construction companies are not making provision of facility for washing at all. Majority construction site doesn't have any bathroom facility. Labourers have to depend on open bath, from where water available.

Health of labourers is not at all matter to construction companies. Majority companies do not pay medical cost incurred to the labourers. While a considerable number of site labourers and company jointly meet the expenses incurred for the medical treatment. The women labourers are not eligible to get the maternity benefits. More over the companies are not ready to compensate with employee's having partial and full injuries and are not covered by life insurance. Adequate accident relief equipments like helmets, hand Gloves and shoes, safety belts, protection eye wear etc like safety materials and equipments to the construction labourers. 

The wage structure of the construction labour is also found inadequate considering their labour. Majority labourers are getting a wage in between 50-100Rs/day. Here the study observed differential wage system for the skilled and unskilled labourers. For the unskilled labourers the wage comes arrround 41-60Rs/day.

Leave facilities are not available for the construction labourers. Some companies unofficially give medical leave and maternity leave to the construction labourers. No holiday policy is found in majority construction sites. The working hours of the construction labourers varied considerably. While majority construction sites are making provision of 8-11 hour a day.

The labourers do not get healthy food from the construction site. Majority companies are not making provision of better food to their labourers. Dal, Rotti, Rice and Vegetables are the regular food habit.  Women labourers have to look after the food and home in addition to their regular work. The construction companies are not provided with crèches for the children. Majority children are wandering around the site while parents working in the site. No one to look after these children and ensure their better health, education and care in their tender age. Many factors like frequent migration from one area to another; economic problems etc, cited by the construction labourers in making provision of better education to their children.

Steps to be taken

1. Investigate the abuse and exploitation of labourers by agents and employers and prosecute such agents and employers.

2. Create awareness of construction labourer's rights and set up mechanisms of redressal.

3. Ensuring decent working conditions and proper
contract systems and providing basic health care for construction labourer's.

4. Adequate intervention from the government authorities required ensuring the health, safety and welfare of the construction labourers.

5. Effective implementation of the labour laws that making provision of better health, safety and welfare of the construction labourers.

6. NGO's working for child welfare should consider the difficulties of the construction labourers and plan strategies to ensure free education of these children.

7. NGO's working should extend open education to the labourers and to alleviate atrocities against them.

8. Organize public medical camps where constructions sites are located

9. Constant inspection from the government part is required to reduce the plight of the construction labourers.

10. Constructive support from the trade unions to the construction labourers to be ensured where the government and management couldn't support.

11. Encourage the construction labourers saving habit by initiating thrift and banking awareness.

12. Ensure adequate insurance facilities for the construction labourers

References

1. Breman, Jan (1985), Of Peasants, Migrants and Paupers: Rural Labour and Capitalist Production in Western India, Delhi: Oxford University Press.

2. Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act, 1996, Ministry of Labour, Government of India.

3. Chamaraj, Kathyani (2003), "Making Statues from Black Stone", Humanscape Magazine, Vol. X, Issue VIII, July. Vol. IX Issue III, March (web edition at humnscapeindia.net).

4. Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition), Act, 1970, Ministry of Labour, Government of India.

5. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Ministry of Labour, Government of India Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service)Act, 1979, Ministry of Labour, Government of India.

6. Handbook of labour statistics (Bombay, Employers' Federation of India).
UCB Main HD8683 .H3 BOUND 1964(1), 1989(10), 1997-

7. Human Rights Watch, The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labor in India, (New York: September 1996).

8. Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Government of India

9. Ranade, S. N. Women construction workers: reports of two surveys (Bombay : Allied Publishers, [pref. 1975] ). NRLF HD6073.B892 I571 B 3 815 341

10. Srivastava, Ravi S. (2003) (with Sasikumar) "An Overview of migration, its impacts and key issues", Paper No. 2, Migration and Development and Pro-poor Policy Choices in Asia, London: DFID.

11. The Indian labour yearbook. (Delhi: Manager of Publications, [1946-])
UCB Main HD8683 .A3 BOUND 1947/48-1998-
 


Prof. Dileep Kumar M.
Ex-Professor
Symbiosis (SCMHRD, SCDL), IIIT, SCMLD, SBS
Pune
 

Source: E-mail May 7, 2006

     

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