Dahod district is one of the least developed districts of Gujarat. One of the Members of the Legislative Assembly from this district commented that Dahod is a district which primarily produces labourers for the rest of Gujarat. Nansinghbhai, resident of Vanbori village in Dahod district, came to Vadodara district as a migrant labourer. He was engaged in masonry work of a commercial complex being built on Dabhoi Road. His eldest son Mahesh were also engaged as labourers. Nansing bhai and Mahesh had start their work on dated 22-8-2012. The complex was small hence only 20 to 25 labourers were engaged in working at the site. On 1st September everyone had started their work in the morning as per the assignment given by the labour contractor, Harshad Patel. Mahesh was assigned work to clean the top of the first floor and clear wooden scaffolds. Whilst throwing materials, one piece touched the electric line passing 4 ft away and Mahesh instantly fell due to severe electric shock. Mahesh’s right hand, toes, chest, neck and face were severely burned. He was admitted to civil hospital and his treatment is currently on going. Though he escaped death, his future is bleak because his right hand has been severely injured. Mahesh goes through unbearable pain when the wounds are dressed, which happens every day, but it’s with the hope that their condition will improve. However the doctor is not giving any guarantee that the skin on Mahesh’s hand will recuperate.
Mahesh’s family possesses a ‘Below Poverty Line’ card, but they do not have a Rastriyrnea Swasthaya Bima Yojana (National Health Insurance Scheme) card. Though Nansingbhai and his wife are with Mahesh day and night, they do not have money to treat Mahesh in a private hospital. Because of Mahesh’s treatment they are not able to earn a living, a major opportunity cost. Every day they need R. 300 for treatment whilst the contractor covers some other expenses; nobody else is there to take care of their needs. When the Bandkam Mazdoor Sangathan contacted the principle employer, he was of the opinion that he does not have any legal responsibility as Mahesh was appointed by the labour contractor and it is up to the contractor to look into the matter. When contacted the contractor said that he is a small contractor and has done whatever he could with a small income. It is also the State responsibility to record and investigate the incident under the BOCW Act 1996.
At the time of the accident Mahesh was 17 years old however he looks closer to 15 due to malnourishment. Mahesh had discontinued his studies after 8th standard and started working as labourer with his father. Due to the nature of labouring the potential loss of a hand due to his severe injuries is threatening Mahesh’s livelihood.
It is ironic that the Government of Gujarat, which has proved so effective at collecting welfare cess from employers, having currently collected Rs. 450 crores, is so slow at distributing such welfare funds. The Construction Workers Union (Bandhkam Mazdoor sangathan) passed a resolution at the joint meeting with the Builders Association and the Gujarat Contractors Association on 28th April 2012, International Workers Memorial Day, proposing that even workers not registered with the Welafare Board should be able to claim benefit from the Welfare Board if they have injured in an accident in the course and out of employment. There are so many victims of accidents in the workplace who do not get any help for treatment at all. They are deprived of legal benefits that are designed to protect them. Will the authorities hear Mahesh’s cry?