The Sindh government’s health and safety law of 2017, brought in after the Baldia fire tragedy of 2012 which killed over 200 people, appears to have done nothing to protect labourers, and deaths continue at building sites and other places due to the failure to implement basic safety regulations. The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research with other civil society groups have demanded a full-fledged inquiry into the tragic deaths of six construction workers six weeks ago at a site in Clifton, Karachi, after a construction lift buckled and collapsed to the ground. Police officials speaking at a seminar organised by Piler have also said that unless owners are made accountable, more such accidents would undoubtedly occur.
Each day, we see builders atop fragile scaffolding without safety harnesses, helmets or other protective gear. We see electricity company workers climb power pillions without gloves or helmets and at automobile workshops, at factories, even in homes, we witness workers exposed to all kinds of hazards. The laws necessary to prevent this are simply ignored. The lives of poor people after all mean little in our society. They are dispensable; their deaths forgotten within hours or days except by the families they leave behind.
We need governmental will and public pressure to change this reality. Organisations need to work for this cause and ensure laws penned down on paper are enforced on the ground. This happens at very few workplaces. Owners of large, lucrative concerns think nothing about exposing their workers to death or grave injury. Compensation is not always paid out, and at any rate the law demands the first priority must be to put in place steps to prevent harm in the first place. The attention given to the incident at Clifton is good news. But we need far more mobilisation if change is to be made. The six workers who died at the Clifton site will of course never return. What we can do is to ensure their families are taken care of and most importantly of all, put in place safeguards so that others do not meet the same fate as these unfortunate men.