Friday, June 10, 2011

Safety and Welfare of Construction Workers at IIT Kanpur

Death of two construction workers in quick succession has caused a lot of charges and explanations. First, a report was created by a campus group called "Hamara Manch." The Dean of Resource Generation and Planning, Prof. Manindra Agarwal, gave a rebuttal of the charges in the report. Then an alumni group called "IIT Kanpur Citizens Forum" refuted several statements made by Dean. Here are the links for the websites of IITK Citizens Forum and the response by IIT Kanpur.

What do I think of the issue. Well, I believe that IIT Kanpur administration have no intentions of hurting anyone. They have no intentions of saving money. They would like to see that contractors follow all laws of the land, and if there is any cost associated with obligations under any law, IIT Kanpur would be happy to pay for it.

However, ensuring safety and welfare of construction workers require more than willingness to spend money. It requires supervision of contractors, and essentially forcing them to carry out all the obligations (for which costs are built in to the contract amount). And that is where, something goes wrong. There are lapses in terms of not forcing the contractor to do everything that they are supposed to do.

In such a situation, what should be the role of alumni, if any. Is Citizens Forum playing that role effectively. In my experience, if you just hope that an accident on campus will force the administration to become more pro-active in terms of providing a safer work environment for construction workers, you are going to be disappointed. So a pressure from community is important. All the gains that we have made in the last 10-15 years over the issue of ensuring minimum wages to contract workers have been primarily due to community pressure (both internal and alumni).

But I find Citizens Forum to be too harsh. It is unfortunate that alumni have to use such language for their alma mater.

On the other hand, IIT Kanpur also has to come out of its belief that they are the best (even if imperfect). They may be the better than most, even all, government organizations. But, many private organizations have become much more conscious of the safety requirement. And why not. Safety does not cost much money. It really has to do with mindset. And every accident dents your image. So, why not just do what it takes to create a safer environment. And, frankly, I have personally seen safer environments outside IIT Kanpur.

At the end, I hope we will now be providing a much safer environment to our construction workers.

1 comment:

  1. Other than enforcing safety rules, care should also be taken to ensure that the labourers get remunerated for their work in a timely manner.