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     Volume 6 Issue 38 | September 28, 2007 |

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View from the Bottom

Somebody must Pay for these Deaths

Shahnoor Wahid

Yes, it has to be as simple as that. Because, if you do not make it as simple as that, there will be more deaths at construction sites in this death-stalking city of ours. You must be wondering what I am talking about. Can't really blame you because who really remembers the Abduls and Parans falling to their premature death from the fifth floor of under-construction buildings? In last three months I have recorded at least three such deaths in the metropolis.

These deaths, which should be treated as second-degree murders, are passed off as 'accidents' and that is how these are recorded in the police investigation reports (you don't expect the police to file a murder case against a crorepati, do you!) The reality is: these young men die because of lack of sufficient safety measures installed at the sites. They have to climb up to the scary heights by a bamboo ladder, the surface of which is round (not flat for better foot hold), and they become extremely slippery during rain. On top of that they have to carry heavy loads of materials on their head or shoulder up that ladder. If they cannot do that they get fired.

The owners of the buildings show utmost indifference to the safety of the construction workers, or for that matter to their lives. Safety measures mean spending money, isn't it? Ask a owner about the accidental death of a worker and the reply would be: 'Oh, these kamlas come by the dozens, no use making so much noise over the death of that...guy...that...whatever the name...' Think of it, these poor fellows never even have a name! They are identified as day-labourers and buried unceremoniously somewhere in a remote corner of the globe.

Ok, those faceless, nameless poor village young men come to the city to keep their appointment with death. But what about that college student who was born with a slightly better chance of survival in this country? He could have become somebody one day, like the owner of the building under which he was passing that fateful day. Some bricks fell on his head from the top floor of that building and he died. Now, who will answer for his death, or pay for it? Will the owner say this time that they come by the dozens? Will he pay for this student's death that was caused because of his sheer negligence in having protective devices around his highrise?

This is a serious situation and someone must come forward to see that something is done about it. Let not our emotions be expressed only through newspaper columns or in seminars and workshops. Let us see someone, some groups, actually going to the court and filing a case against such heartless people. I wonder, if people can run to courts to file cases against petty political leaders, why don't they show as much perseverance in taking action against the social criminals?

The careless owners of under-construction buildings must be taken to courts to pay hefty compensation to the family of labourers who fall to their deaths while working there under pitiable conditions. One or two exemplary punishments would send the rest of the owners running to the markets to buy protective gears for the labourers. I think it is time they were given a lesson on the value of human life and why should we respect it.


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