Mumbai: Safety of workers seems to be the least of BMC's concerns

Feb 25, 2015, 15:40 IST | Sachin Unhalekar

The civic body, which has stated in its 2013-14 budget that it would establish a safety department for its employees, has dropped the subject altogether in its 2015-16 budget

Some years ago, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had taken a decision to establish a safety department for the welfare of its workers. It’s 2015 and the department is nowhere close to being materialised. In fact, in the latest civic budget it has been completely omitted.

BMC workers on duty are continuously exposed to various risks while conductin fumigation, working in filtration plants, etc. File pic for representation
BMC workers on duty are continuously exposed to various risks while conductin fumigation, working in filtration plants, etc. File pic for representation

In its 2013-14 budget, the civic body had stated that under the objectives set by the National Safety Policy, 2009, it would adopt adequate safety measures for its workers. The subsequent budget (2014-15) went a step forward and initiated an action plan to consolidate the safety activities of various departments under the BMC.

The programme was to be finalised in the following financial year i.e. 2015-16. However, this year’s budget, presented by Sitaram Kunte, municipal commissioner, has dropped the subject altogether. There is no mention whatsoever of floating a safety department for BMC workers, who are exposed to various risks.

At present, the safety-related activities of the multitude of departments in the BMC are overseen by just one safety officer, who has been stationed in BMC’s Deonar abattoir.

As per the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996, the civic body is mandated with the responsibility of the health and safety of every worker employed or taken on contract by it. Sainath Rajadhyaksha, general secretary, BMC engineers’ union, said, “This officer was appointed to the position 14 years ago.

After that, he has not been provided with any additional staff to help him execute the duties of his department. He is currently a one-man department.” Rajadhyaksha pointed out how BMC workers worked under adverse conditions. “The BMC has a pumping station, filtration plant, and treatment plant, which carry a risk factor for all the workers there.

Yet, the civic body has dumped the responsibility of their safety on just one man. For two years, this plan (for a safety department) had been a part of the budget. Now the plan has not been mentioned in this year’s budget. This shows how much the BMC really cares for its staff,” he added.

According to him, the BMC has 1.25 lakh employees, nearly 70 per cent of which are workers. This puts the number of workers at 87,500. When contacted, civic chief Sitaram Kunte confirmed that they have just one safety officer. “BMC had said last year that it would bring a safety department for its workers. However, the plan has been stuck in legal matters,” he told mid-day.

Death on duty
There is a dire need for the civic body to take measures to ensure safety of its employees and contracted labour. Several workers have died in the past while on duty.

>> Sandeep Lokhande, a BMC worker on contract, was fumigating Vandrekarwadi area in Jogeshwari with the help of a fumigation car when the machine caught fire. Lokhande died of severe burn injuries on June 21, 2009

>> On April 22, 2011, Satish Modak, a BMC worker, drowned in a gutter while on duty

>> On May 10, 2014, three BMC-contracted workers died of inhaling toxic gases that were released from a manhole they had been engaged to clean

Approximate number of workers employed by the BMC

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