ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When Workers Die

The callous disregard of worker safety is the cost of “ease of doing business.”

 

Human life is cheap in India. So cheap that when the poor, or members of the working class, die, there is little by way of outrage. The media fuels outrage on any number of other issues, but rarely on one where we stand exposed as a society that fails to care for those who are the most vulnerable. And so the death of 32 workers and grievous injuries to another 100 in a major public sector thermal power plant went past as yet another accident. The state government offered compensation, an inquiry was instituted, and the subject disappeared from our consciousness. The “accident” at the 500 megawatts thermal power plant operated by the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) in Unchahar, Raebareli district, Uttar Pradesh, on 1 November has exposed the callous disregard for worker safety and the violation of labour laws that is virtually a norm in India.

While the details of precisely what happened at the NTPC plant will hopefully emerge from the inquiry, some facts are already known. The high pressure steam boiler in the newly commissioned Unit 6 of the Unchahar thermal power plant was supposed to have been shut down to rectify technical problems. Yet, it was still running even as workers were asked to manually remove the ash that had collected in the boiler as a result of the malfunction. When the pressure built up in the boiler, leading to the blast, there were around 300 workers in the vicinity. Surely, this could have been avoided had the safety of workers been a priority.

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Updated On : 12th Nov, 2017

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