GUWAHATI, Jan 19 � Accidental deaths and injuries while working in areas such as masonry, carpentry, electricity, brick-making, stone-quarrying, etc., is nothing uncommon in the State. But despite the existence of an Act providing for compensation to the victims in such situations, lack of awareness among workers has been a stumbling block in getting the assured benefits.
For availing of compensation under the Assam Building and Other Construction Workers� Welfare Act 1996, a worker has to be registered with the State Labour Department. But according to an estimate by the Sadou Asom Nirman Shramik Union, only 10,146 workers are registered with the Government even though the actual number of workers could exceed 10 lakh in the State.
�As per the Government�s own status paper placed before the Assembly in 2011, the State has 10 lakh workers engaged in various construction activities. But failure of the workers to get themselves registered is preventing dispensation of benefits. Apart from lack of initiative on the Government�s part, the role of different workers� unions is found wanting,� Tapan Sarma, working president of the union and a member of the Assam Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Board, said.
The Act provides for compensations for accidental deaths (Rs 50,000) and injuries besides an amount of Rs 15,000 for natural death. In addition, it provides for compensations and scholarships for children of workers killed in accidents.
Sarma said that the compensation amounts were too meagre in the present-day context, and that the union had been calling for an increase. �We want the compensation for accidental death to be enhanced to Rs 1 lakh, and similar reasonable hikes in other compensations as well. The existing pension of Rs 150 per month is ridiculous and needs to be increased,� he said, adding that another major demand of the union was to bring the workers under life insurance schemes.
Sarma said that the union was planning a sustained campaign through meetings and awareness camps to make workers aware of the need to register themselves.
Till date compensations have been paid against only 24 accidental deaths besides some natural deaths. In the latest instance, the kin of Loknath Bodo, a construction worker of Goreswar, were paid Rs 15,000 along with Rs 1,000 as funeral expenses on January 6.
While the Assam Building and Other Construction Workers� Welfare Board is supposed to expedite the process of payment of compensations to the workers, the board has been plagued by severe financial constraints and has not been functioning in the desired manner.