'We asked for helmets, but contractor said: No need, no one will know'
Dilip Mahaldare was present on the roof when his co-workers fell to their death. He saw the men meet a gory end before his very eyes.
Mahaldare, who hails from West Bengal, was among the many labourers at the under-construction BSDT ayurvedic hospital in Wagholi where a slab collapsed on Tuesday, bringing down a dome and killing 13 workers.
“We work for our contractor in Bengal,” he said. “We got Rs 200 as wages per day.” The workers at the site were not provided with any safety jackets or helmets.
“We were given only gumboots, and when we asked about the helmets, our contractor here told us, ‘No one will bother to check, so it is not necessary, so don’t worry’,” Mahaldare said. “Even the net on the third floor has been put up after the accident rather than before.”
The labourers were brought to the site under contractors, but were never registered and did not have any licences yet.
Asked about the contractor, Mahaldare said, “Seth gave us the work here. We were not registered. Neither were we given any insurance, nor any official documentation. As long as a profit is made, no one cares if a labourer dies.”
The dome on the building was a pyramid-like, four-faced structure that was being cast. The structure was supported at the centre by a pipe. The pipe broke, and with the lack of support, the structure came down.
Asked about the quality of the materials, Mahaldare said, “No one would use faulty material purposely. The pipe was extensively used before and had become weak. It broke, and the dome fell.”
Described the accident, he said, “We all were on the roof working on the casting. Suddenly there was a huge noise and the structure fell down with the people. Three people were hanging by the iron rods, but they could not hold for long and fell to their death. It all happened too fast, we could do nothing to help them.”
Four people, including Mahaldare, are still at the construction site. “We don’t have any money left to go back to our village. We haven’t been paid our wages. We have no money to even eat and are hungry since yesterday. Our seth, our contractor, no one has even showed up since the mishap.”
Asked where the relatives of the victims were, he said, “They all were sent back to their villages yesterday (Tuesday) night itself.”
D M Rege of Santulan, said, “The sub-contractor Gowda doesn’t seem to have a registration and his cell phone is switched off. We are appealing to the authorities to register a case against the two contractors, Gore and Gowda, and immediately arrest them. The authorities are saying that we will see to it that compensation is given to all the victims.”
BSDT trustee Sardeshmukh said, “We are going to take care of the injured person. The trust is completely funding his treatment. He is supposed to undergo a surgery today.”
Asked about the contractors and the incident, he said, “We have all the documents required for the investigation with us. We are cooperating completely with the police for the investigations. We are also going to set up our own committee of experts to investigate the matter.”
Everyone connected to the construction seemed to be confused or uninformed. The college management claimed to have given the contract to Prompt Landmarks, a firm from the city. The firm gave the contract to Pramod Gore, who further sub-contracted Gowda without any paperwork.
There is no paperwork available with anyone about the workers. “These people are now passing the buck from one to another. No one has any paperwork about the labourers,” Rege said. “Also, how can they sub-contract without any paperwork?”
Lobo Kulaesika, who from Orissa, is the only person among the labourers who got caught in the collapse to survive the accident. He is admitted to the Rakshak Hospital in Chandannagar.
“Our contractor from Bengal was Asif Shaikh,” he said. “We came to Pune under him. I was paid Rs 9,000 per month.” Asked about the safety measures, he said, “We never used helmets, we only wore gumboots.”
A doctor at the Rakshak Hospital said, “The patient has two fractures and injuries to his knee, chest and elbow, but is stable now and will recover soon.” Though the police are investigating, no complaint was lodged with them yesterday. “We have collected samples from the site,” PSI Chavan said. “We are carrying out all the necessary investigations and will find out the reason behind the accident soon.”