Contractors violate government heat wave directive

Labour Dept has no punitive power in absence of a specific law
For representational Image (File | PTI)
For representational Image (File | PTI)

ROURKELA: Even as the Labour Department has issued guidelines to stop labourers from working from 11 am to 3.30 pm due to the intense heat wave, contractors hired by both private and Government agencies continue to flout the directive across Sundargarh district.

Officials of the department confide that in the absence of a specific law,they have no punitive power against the violators. Rourkela city on Friday recorded a maximum temperature of 43.8 degree Celsius. But, daily labourers could be seen engaged by private and government contract firms in road and other construction activities in the scorching heat, making them vulnerable to sunstroke. Similar was the situation in Sundargarh town and many other parts of the district.

Former councillor of Sundargarh Municipality, HS Behera said an elderly worker engaged in construction work of the medical college and hospital project of NTPC at Sankara in Sundargarh town collapsed and died on May 27 noon. He claimed that the worker died of sunstroke and the Sundargarh administration should ensure protection of poor workers as their employers force them to work under risky conditions.
Despite by the directive, Labour Department is helpless in enforcing it. Officials said although guidelines get issued every year with the onset of summer there is no specific law under which the violators could be booked or prosecuted.

In the present scenario, the violators are booked under separate provisions of Labour laws. To create deterrence, sometimes the violators are booked for violation of Wages Act, which has nothing to do with flouting of heatwave guidelines.

District Labour Officer Pranab Patra said an enforcement squad is carrying out checking and about 20 notices have been slapped on the violators of heat wave guidelines. He said appropriate action would be taken against them.

On Thursday, a youth of Sambalpur district Gudu Paswan collapsed after alighting from a bus at the Sundargarh bus stand and died allegedly due to sunstroke. A case has been registered at the Town police station and postmortem report is awaited to ascertain the cause of death. The district has so far recorded one confirmed sunstroke death in Bonai block this month.

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