As many as 13 labourers were injured when a scaffolding from a boiler fell over them during maintenance work at a unit of a private thermal power plant – Lanco Anpara Power Limited in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh in the early hours of April 4, 2020.
According to the company officials, on March 22, work at the power plant was stalled due to maintenance being carried out by trained contractual workers. Work was going on at the power unit in the night when a 36-metre-high scaffolding was being installed. The scaffolding collapsed and it stuck at a height of 20 metres. The young labourers working on it were injured.
Such a type of phenomenon is not new in the industrial sector. Reports of the occurrence of such incidents are coming from Indian industrial sector and also from all over the world. Workers of organised sector or in the unorganized sector, workers live in the most vulnerable conditions everywhere. Workers are given the responsibility of doing the most unsafe jobs in heavy industries such as power generation and steel plants. They are kept to work in high places during the construction and in the special events of shutdown of the plants, they are responsible for the cleaning and maintaining the work.
Such topics are investigated but it is not given much importance. Why such incidents happen in plants, it is not good to go to the depths or roots. Even after making so much industrial progress, the issues related to the insecurity of the lives of laborers are not given much importance in Indian industry.
Issues related to laborers in workplaces are still not included in the discussion of topics of corporate governance of Indian business. Mostly people become laborers due to extreme poverty. The semi educated youth of the villages go to the city and become laborers. They become laborers to overcome helplessness and unemployment, not because of expertise in work. There are labour organizations in industries but they are only for show off. These organizations are kept away from the welfare work of the workers. In industries, human rights of workers are grossly ignored.
The main reason for such phenomena which I see at first sight is that the workers in India are not considered to be real partners in industrial progress. Their role is abolished only by paying wages. Industries do not try to look at their lives. The main reason behind the incidents that endanger the lives of laborers in industries is related to their unsafe behavior. Illiteracy is responsible for unsafe behavior at the workplace. There is no monitoring of the health of workers in industries.
Due to extreme poverty and deep illiteracy labours working in the industrial sector are unconcerned with the values of their own lives. Almost all workers drink alcohol. All workers live in slums. Industrial laborers are residents of different regions, have different ideologies, speak different languages, so it is very difficult to make them aware of their rights and duties. Unless the living conditions of the workers as a whole will be upgraded, control of such incidents is impossible.
Providing skill development opportunities to labourers, ensuring better wages and taking care of education of their children are important issues which may help the industrial sector to tackle the labour issues related to their lives. The issues related to laborers within the organisation should be raised at the board level and should be discussed at board meetings as a key business-related issue.
(The author is the founder of indiacsr.in, which provides updates of business responsibility and allied affairs of business.)
(The article first appeared in business daily Bizz Buzz)