IITK (PG) Days

Monday, September 03, 2007

More Deaths at IITK?

I got this mail from the campus, is there any end to this?
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Dear Friends,

Even as we are still reeling from the death of a child because of lack of a health-care policy in our Institute we are faced with the death of another contract worker in the campus. Mr Udayvir Yadav was electrocuted and died on 30th of August while working at the construction site of the
Hall IX building. Like the earlier incident, we came to know of this quite by chance, when the elder brother of the deceased, Mr Ramjit Yadav, who is an SIS guard posted in the campus, was directed to talk to the Minimun Wages Monitoring Volunteer group.

This time too the authorities have chosen not to report the incident anywhere - not to the community, not to the police, nor any other official forum. The incident raises several serious issues regarding the contracting practices of the Institute and the working conditions of the contract workers, but before that a brief description of what happened. Mr Udayvir Yadav, was polishing stone in Hall IX when the machine he was working with became live giving him a massive electric shock due to which he died. Udayvir was 24 years old and is survived by his wife and two children aged 6 months and 3 years. The death probably occurred because of the crude and extremely unsafe method used to draw electricity - without any safety tripping device. The Institute does not insist on or monitor the safety practices that must be followed for construction and other maintenance work on campus.

What is even more shocking is what happened after this fatal accident. The construction of Hall IX has been contracted to a contractor named M/s Raitani who in turn has sub-contracted the entire work to several petty contractors. The immediate response of the employees of M/s
Raitani was to hush up the entire incident. They took the body to a nearby nursing home where he was declared brought dead. After that the contractor's men tried to persuade the co-workers to take the body away immediately to the native village of the deceased in Banda. They even
advised them to not mention that death had occurred due to electrocution but instead asked them to say that he had died of a heart attack. When the co-workers tried to get the body back to the work site they were prevented from doing so by the SIS guards at the gate, on orders from their higher ups. Subsequently, when the workers went to the police station to file an FIR they found the contractor's men had preceded them there. There is also fear that the contractor's men were trying to influence the post mortem report as they were reported to be present in the hospital both before and much after the body was handed over to the hospital for the autopsy. The family has been contacted multiple times by the contractor's men to work out some kind of a settlement - they do not want the family to make any complaints and would want them to settle the whole matter by taking some money. The family and the co-workers fear that the whole incident may be passed of as merely a case of 'heart failure'. They are also worried that proper compensation will not be given and Mr. Yadav s young wife and two children will be left witout adequate support.

In this whole episode the complete silence of the Institute to own up its responsibilities and actively attempt to address the whole issue may end up in letting the contractor get away scot free. When a person dies at work at an institute construction site should not the institute take
up responsibility and ensure that proper procedures are followed? We have conducted an enquiry into the matter and the report is being submitted by the MWMC Chairperson to the Institute. We have made the following recommendations:

- A proper Institute level enquiry into the whole incident.
- Implementation of safe work practices in the campus.
- A group insurance policy to cover all work related mishaps in the campus.
- Emergency first aid and medical support availability close to the work
place.
- All contractual workers to be given employment cards so that Institute
knows at all times who is working on contract for the Institute.
- Immediate compensation (as per law) to the family of Mr Udayvir Yadav

Two deaths in two weeks (possibly three we have been unable to verify the third one since the body was immediately removed), two lives unnecessarily lost, how many more deaths do we need before waking up to our responsibilities? In the midst of the deluge of national and international interest in what is happening in our 'Institute of Excellence' is it not time for us to put our house in order?

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