PUDR fact-finding of accident at AIIMS construction site on 9 March 2016

To
Mr Gopal Rai
Hon’ble Minister
Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi

08.04.2016
 
Subject: PUDR fact-finding of accident at AIIMS construction site on 9 March 2016
 
Dear Sir
 
On March 9, 2016, there was an accident at a construction site within the premises of the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in Delhi, where two workers were killed and three others were injured.
 
PUDR had conducted a fact-finding to probe into the causes and circumstances of the incident and also the authenticity of the reports in media that compensation was given to the victims’ families immediately. Kindly find a report on the basis of the fact-finding enclosed for your perusal.
 
PUDR’s interactions with officials of the company Ahluwalia Constructions under which the workers were employed, other workers in the construction site, personnel at a labour camp, and sources in the AIIMS brought out several discrepancies in the claims made about the circumstances leading to the incident and compensation afterwards. In the context of Ahluwalia Constructions’ history of gross violations of labour laws during its work in the Commonwealth Games projects as brought to public notice by PUDR’s reports In the Name of National Pride: Blatant Violation of Workers' Rights at the Commonwealth Games site (PUDR: April 2009) and Games the State Plays: A Follow up Report on the Violations of Workers’ Rights in CWG-related Construction Sites (PUDR: August 2010), PUDR strongly believes that the claims made by the company needs to be cross-checked.
 
As the report of the inquiry committee set up by AIIMS is not yet available in the public domain, contrary to reports in the media that such a report is available, there is at present no other version of what actually happened on the 9th and afterwards apart from the Ahluwalia company’s version. The various unanswered questions that arise from PUDR’s fact-finding, thus makes it imperative that the AIIMS inquiry committee report should be made available in the public domain as soon as possible.
 
Further, to authenticate the claims made by the company regarding compensation provided from their side, it is also crucial to verify these facts with the families of the victims. It is very important to confirm the receipt of compensation by the families, as PUDR came to know of another case, where on the death of a security personnel on duty in an accident at AIIMS, compensation was declared but was never received by his family (please see the attached fact-sheet).
 
As Ahluwalia company officials did not share with PUDR the contact details of the victims or their families, such a cross-checking has not been possible yet. But as mentioned in the media, the Delhi government has provided a compensation amount to the victims too, and thus PUDR requests you to share the address and contact details of the families as recorded in the official documents for the purpose, in the interest of an independent fact-finding by PUDR.
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Enclosure: PUDR fact-sheet of accident at AIIMS construction site on 9 March 2016



 
Accident at the AIIMS construction site- fact sheet
 
Team visited on 17th March 2016
It was reported in the newspapers that on 9th March 2016 an accident took place at a construction site of AIIMS in which two workers were killed and three were injured (http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/delhi-construction-site-near-AIIMS-caves-in-at-least-one-worker-dead/ http://www.dnaindia.com/locality/south-delhi/accident-construction-site-AIIMS-delhi-kills-2-87499). It was reported that the workers were immediately given medical help and were even given compensation as recommended by an enquiry committee set up by AIIMS. To find out about the cause of the accident and the authenticity of the facts stated in the media, a team of three members visited the site on 17th March 2016.
 
Following were the facts that came to our notice:
1. The land had been excavated for construction and the earth piled up bouldering the excavated site caved in due to which the accident occurred. The accident occurred on 9th afternoon when the earth caved in and the workers swamped beneath and were graved in. The workers were tried to be rescued but out of the five, two succumbed to the injuries. The three others were given medical help at the AIIMS Trauma Centre.
 
2. The contract of the construction was with the Ahluwalia company and all five workers were employed by the company directly on a contract basis. On the visit to the construction site, the team found out that almost all members of the work force present were new at the site and had no precise information of the accident and the workers and had only ‘heard’. Some workers told us that those who were injured and died were staying at the labour colony of the Ahluwalias’ situated behind Safdarjung Hospital near Chhattisgarh sadan and walked everyday to work. Their families were staying along and after the mishap, they had all left for their respective hometowns. Out of the five, one worker who passed away was from Maldah and the others were from Bihar. They also conceded that the families had been given compensation of one lakh each to the injured and five lakhs each to the deceased, by the company.
 
3. When the team met the members of the management at the Ahluwalia camp at the construction site, they told us that the accident happened because there is a sewage line crossing beneath the construction site of which they had no knowledge until the mishap took place. They were provided with a map of the site before the contract which had no mention of the sewage line. The sewage line had loosened the soil which led to the accident. On being asked what are they doing to prevent any future occurrence of such accidents, they said, they have lowered the level of excavation. This remedy did not make sense to our team which had seen the construction site and could see no lowering down of the piles of earth. It was also perhaps not possible as the construction had already raised towering iron rods, the heights of which could not be reduced.
 
4. The company officials told us that their company follows a policy of getting each worker insured that moment they hire them. As per the calculations of the insurance policy in proportion to the wage scale of the workers, they were paid compensation. Out of the two deceased, one was a carpenter who earned 600 Rs. Per day. His family was entitled to an insurance amount of 8.5 lakhs. The other was a labourer who earned 350 rs. Per day was entitled to an insurance amount of 7.5 lakhs. In addition, each of the workers’ families were paid 5 lakhs by the company and 2 lakhs by Delhi government. We were told, one of the worker’s wife who produced an identity card had already received the amount while the other was in process of verification. The company claimed to have the receiving signed by the family. Those injured were paid one lakh each by the company and 10000 each by the Delhi government.
 
5. We enquired from the company officials about the families of the workers and were told they were residing in the labour colony ‘nearby’ but left for home after the accident. We were told the Ahluwalia labour colony has been specially designed by the School of Architecture and Planning. When we showed interest in visiting the colony, they were reluctant to show. The team visited the labour colony on its own as directed by few workers at the site and with the help of few locals. We encountered a big asbestos locked gate on reaching the labour colony. The gatekeeper and one of the company officials spoke to us across the locked gate. They refused to open the gate saying there were only some women and children at the colony and opening the gate would risk their wellbeing. The gatekeeper mentioned that there were about 500 families staying there while the other official said there were about 250 families. The gates opened only twice in the day, in the morning at 8 when the workers go out for work and at 5 in the evening when they come back. We could see a generator in front of the gate (which started only when we began questioning). We were told, the children do not go to school but there was lady who gave tuitions to all the children of the colony. On being asked whether the workers injured in the accident stayed with them, they said they no and that they were staying at the construction site itself and did not have families with them. We asked them to speak to the company official siting his name who had directed us to the colony. They came back with the answer that the person was not taking calls at the moment.
 
6. From other sources within AIIMS, we found out that all the workers who were injured and had left for their homes were untraceable, their phones were switched off. We were told about another death that took place in AIIMS were a security guard lost his life in an accident. The family had been immediately announced compensation but two months had lapsed and the family had received nothing.
 
7. Contrary to the media reports, we were told that the enquiry committee set up by AIIMS in the matter related to the accident on 9th march was yet to table its report.
 
The facts encountered by us raise serious discrepancies and the team was left with several unanswered questions:
1. The fact that the construction company refused to have any knowledge of the sewage line despite having a map of the construction site raises questions of culpability both on the part of the company and the AIIMS. If the sewage line was the cause of the accident, who will take the responsibility?
 
2. Was it just a matter of co-incidence that every staff and worker we met was either new or was not present at the time of the accident. None present at the site claimed to know the workers who were injured in the accident. Many were most evidently shying away from speaking to us and refused to answer anything. Did the company actually shift the workforce to another site or hushed them up? What is it that they are trying to hide?
 
3. The fact that the phone numbers of all of the workers in the accident were untraceable gives serious misgivings. The company officials, despite asking, were not ready to share the details of the workers with the team.
 
4. The company officials claimed the workers stayed at the labour colony before leaving for their homes with their families while the residents of the colony refused that.
 
5. If the Ahluwalias’ had a standard labour colony designed, why were they reluctant in showing us the colony? Why did not they receive the call when we were asking for permission at the gate to enter the labour colony?
 
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