The All India Central Council of Trade Union (AICCTU) recently submitted a memorandum to the Karnataka Labour Department highlighting the problems faced by workers who travel in unsafe conditions and demands to improve the current situation. Following this, the Karnataka Labour Department held a meeting on Thursday to discuss provisions of safe and affordable transport for workers.
This meeting was held in pursuance of the order of Karnataka High Court. In the writ petition, it was mentioned that workers across the state are compelled to travel in extremely dangerous and hazardous conditions.
The AICCTU, in its letter, pointed out that it is necessary to recognise that workers do not travel in such dangerous forms as a matter of choice. It is an absolute lack of choice that pushes them to take such modes of transportation. This is caused by a total absence of transportation facilities that are affordable and safe. It is also essential to note that the workers who are often forced to travel in these methods are from the unorganised sector. A large number of them are women raising very serious concerns with respect to their safety.
The AICCTU’s District Secretary Nirmala M. listed out in the letter, the set of challenges faced by the workers coming from various unorganised sectors. The construction workers who work in conditions without minimum wages, are unable to afford even public transport, compelling them to use vehicles that transport goods along with construction material, which is both unsafe and undignified.
Besides, the Building and other Construction Workers Act under Section 34 makes it mandatory for the employer to provide housing for the workers, the lack of which has forced them to stay in tiny sheds i.e. ‘labour camps’.
Powrakarmikas (municipal workers), 90% of who are women, work very early in the morning at around 6am to 6:30am. Due to lack of availability of buses that early in the morning, they are left to use private transport which is both expensive and unsafe. Cases of sexual harassment have been reported on multiple occasions. It is mandatory for the municipality or the municipal corporation to make travel arrangements between their residences and workplace.
Workers who work in autos and lorries that carry garbage, are compelled to sit on top of the garbage which is absolutely unsanitary and the most degrading and inhuman practice.
Earlier in April end, the state Chief Secretary, TM Vijay Bhaskar had held a meeting after the Karnataka HC had lashed out at the state government for neglecting the issue of labourers being transported in goods vehicles. The HC was hearing a petition filed by a member of the state legal services authority raising safety concerns of the workers.
Last September, five agricultural labourers in Somanal village of Karatagi taluk in Koppal district died, and 10 were injured, when the tractor on which they were travelling to duty, fell into the Tungabhadra canal.
Similar predicaments were faced by garment workers, street vendors and domestic workers. Low income and extra charges for luggage were making public transport less viable. Thus, they are left to walk for kilometres to get to their workplace, the letter stated.
The AICCTU has laid down certain basic demands that need to be addressed by the authorities immediately:
- Responsibility of the State to ensure the provision of proper transport: BMTC or KSRTC bus services must be provided between places of residence to place to work, especially for those who work in the wee hours.
- Responsibility of private employers to ensure the provision of proper transport.
- Need for a Committee with representatives of trade unions to study the issues faced by the workers and provide recommendations for necessary steps to be taken.
- Time bound Action Plan has to be prepared and implemented.
- Compensation for workers who suffer injury or death during transport.