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India’s labour contracting system: robbing lives, shattering dreams

Correctional Abuse

Systematic disintegration of labour by Contractors

Out of a ten million workforce of construction labourers in India, 92% is migrant, forced and exploited labour that comes through labour chowks and petty contractors. This labour is not protected under the labour law and is paid way lowered wages than the standard registered in various construction policies.

India ranks first in employing illegal labour globally. This is because labour in India works through various middlemen who contract labour through their inside networks, earning huge profits at the stake of this labour losing lives while on site. Out of the 92% illegal labour, almost 30% lose their physical abilities over time.

Accidents alone on small construction sites show that the death of persons is 1.60%; loss of body parts is 2%; body fracture is 10.47%; injury to the body is 44.10%; skin infection is 8.08%; deficiencies to ear and eye are 2.07%. The average number of accidents is 10.07 according to a report in Hindawi.com. However, this labour is not let go as there is a shortage of labour around the world.

These workers are over worked and underpaid and most of them are on constant move from one site to another in search of more work. They are paid anything between Rs. 400–500 for a week’s worth of work. Yet, most labourers don’t complaint against this injustice as they need to continue to feed their families. Most construction site workers live away from their families and live on site when work’s under progress.

These figures alone are strong evidence for investors to appeal for impactful labour policies across the globe. The exploitation of workers on construction sites and their accidental threats need to be combated by investors by questioning the middlemen and the supply chain of contractors both on big project sites and small work sites. The issue of migrant labour needs a welfare policy to protect their survival rights so that they aren’t traded like goats in the labour landscape anymore.

Forced labour includes the average aged worker who needs to retire but there are no policies to protect his family and him financially so he continues to work until he dies on site. Various labor forums across the country are no boon for the unskilled labour.

The network of workers operates through a chain of ‘friends’ from the same state, caste and group; especially in labour chowks. These are very common in Delhi who mostly come from Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.

Real estate companies, key stake holders, outsourced construction companies and investors need to pay more coherence to the detrimental conditions these workers are forced to work.

The industry needs better investigation of contractors who pay the workers wages. Even though most labour says that they are content working with the middlemen are just saving themselves for more work from these contractors.

There needs to be an acknowledgement of illegal labour in the country to deliver justified wages to them. Investors need to delve deeper into the labour force dynamics to carry out justice for construction workers globally.

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