MULTAN: There is a question mark on the safety standards being adopted for the Multan Metro Bus Project workers as 11 of them have lost their lives during the last one year.

Officials claim that the families of the workers have been given compensation.

The tenders for the 18.2-kilometre long project were opened on April 6, 2015 and the civil work started in May. Eleven workers have lost their lives in accidents at various points of the project.

Shafqat, a resident of Sialkot who was engaged in labour, was the first victim of poor safety measures when a crane touched live electricity wires at Vehari Chowk on May 9, 2015. He was injured and shifted to the Nishtar Hospital, where doctors declared him dead.

Musaddiq Abbas, a diploma-holding engineer, lost his life when he was buried in a quagmire on the construction site on June 21. Married two weeks before his death, Musaddiq was the sole breadwinner of the family. On Feb 24 last, 17-year-old labourer Javed was crushed under a crane near Fish Market.

The recent accident took place this past May 2 when two labourers Iqbal Umar of Vehari and Shafqat Umar of Nankana Sahib were electrocuted while pushing a wheeled iron platform at overhead bridge, while Shahzad suffered injuries.

Earlier, the killing of civil engineer Shahzad Ali by two unidentified assailants on Bosan Road on Sept 18 exposed the security arrangements at the work site.

Rights activist Advocate Nadim Parwaaz said the workers engaged in development projects such as Metro Bus Project fell under the category of building workers and ensuring the health and safety measures was the responsibility of the company concerned.

“Providing helmets, uniforms, goggles, work shoes and other safety equipment besides arrangement of first-aid is the responsibility of the company,” he said. He said the MDA being an executing agency of the project was responsible for implementation of the safety and labour laws.

“The metro bus administration is responsible for ensuring the implementation of laws relating to health and safety of the workers by engaging the labour department, Punjab Employees Social Security Institute (PESSI) and Employees Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI),” he said.

He said the labour department should ensure implementation of labour laws while it’s the responsibility of PESSI to register the workers after 90 days and issue them social security cards that enable them to avail themselves of free health, education, wedding grants, death grants and other services. “After the workers are registered and have been issued cards, the employer will deposit an amount equal to 7pc of the monthly wages of a worker,” he said.

“The problem is the companies hire labour through outsourcing by other companies or contractors and as there is no check by the government departments, the condition of the workers at such places remains terrible,” he said.

Sohail Javed of the Awami Workers Party said although the project had been launched by the government, the condition of the workers was not different from those working in private factories. He said a monitoring committee should be constituted to check the working conditions of the workers on the development projects, while in case of any death or injury, responsibility should be fixed by conducting inquiries besides compensating the victims.

District Officer Labour Ghulam Abbas said: “The workers of road construction companies do not fall under the Punjab Factories Act and the department cannot interfere in the safety and health issues. “We can intervene if the minimum wages fixed by the government are not being paid,” he said.

EOBI Director Syed Matloob Zaffar said the department registered the workers of the bus project but he is not sure about the number of registered workers.

Metro Bus Project Technical Adviser Sabir Khan Sadozai said the companies had been asked to strictly ensure the health and safety measures.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2016