Srinagar: Three state laws and government of India’s legislations have done little to prod the government into ensuring that stone quarry workers who die or suffer injuries during work are compensated and their employers take measures for their safety.
At least 20 stone quarry labourers have been killed and 70 disabled since quarrying began in Panthachowk and other areas in the city outskirts. None of them have been compensated.
“I was loading a truck when a stone slipped and ran over me and my uncle. My uncle died at the spot while as I survived with multiple fractures in my leg. I have been fighting for disability welfare for the past eight years,” said Abdul Rasheed, 35, a labourer.
Mohammad Shafi, an expert in setting explosives off, said that he slipped and broke his right hand while loading explosives one day.
“I went to my owner and asked for compensation but he became aggressive and told me to get lost. In fact he threatened to beat me up,” he added.
According to the state labour department’s website, three laws and 23 other legislations safeguard the rights of workers and make it mandatory for employers to pay compensation to workers in case of injury or death.
Abdul Basit, a lawyer, said under Workmen Compensation Act, the Labour Commission has been empowered to check the conditions in which labourers work, especially their safety.
“They also have to provide proper guidance to the labourers so that they can avail the benefits of various schemes meant for them,” he said.
Since the quarry labourers work in the un-organised sector, social security schemes like ESIC and Provident Fund do not apply, which makes their situation precarious in case of injury.
Under Company Act, an employer is bound to insure his employee and provide safety measure like helmet and leg guards.
“And for high risk jobs like stone breaking and handling explosives, employees have to be properly trained and provided with safety gear to minimise risks,” an official at the Labour Commission said.
“A labourer can sue his employer if not provided these benefits. There is no time bar for filing a complaint under the Motor Vehicle Act. They can file their complaint anytime they want,” said Tufail Ahmad, a senior lawyer.
Tufail said in quarry workers cases, complaints are usually filed under two acts: Workmen Compensation Act and Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961.
In most such, quarry workers suffer injuries while loading stones. Therefore, a large number of cases are filed under Motor Transport Workers Act.
“But the problem with such cases is that they are time consuming. You cannot avert the process. There are too many stakeholders such as insurance companies, owners and labourers and everyone has to be satisfied,” Tufail said.