Workers at the Bommanahalli site demanded drinking water after which the police allegedly intimidated them.

Bengaluru metro construction workers agitate over lack of water and ration
news Coronavirus Sunday, May 03, 2020 - 21:24

Violence broke out for the second day in Bengaluru’s Bommanahalli metro construction site after a group of frustrated construction workers attacked an official’s car on Saturday demanding their due wages and humane living conditions.

On Sunday, a clash broke out between the workers and police officials who visited the site.

While it is unclear what exactly led to the clash, TNM spoke to two workers who said around 30 policemen entered the site. Most workers have been left unpaid for more than a month and some even more.

The construction site houses more than 1,000 workers mostly from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal who are forced to stay in inhumane conditions. Moreover with the stringent lockdown in place and no relief measures by the government, they were forced to stay in crowded shanties and even without the basic necessity of clean drinking water.

A construction worker at the site hailing from Jharkhand, said, “The police had come to the site after the construction company complained to the police. This happened after we had asked some of the company staff who stayed alongside us about why enough water was not being provided. When the police came, an argument broke out and the police started beating and intimidating us. After the clash, some senior staff came and urged us not to leave and assured us that they will give us ration.”  

Another worker, a migrant from West Bengal, said, “After the clash ended, senior police officials and senior people from the company came and promised us that we will be taken care of and all of us who want to return will be sent back home within a week.”

Ekta, an activist with Bengaluru-based media and arts collective Maraa, who are helping and documenting the plight of these workers, said, “Yesterday also violence had broken out. The workers are really frustrated as there is no ration or even water to drink. They are forced to stay indoors and they are not getting any response from their contractors. The police used lathis on them."

She added, “All this while we have been trying to help them and had been in touch with the Labour Department. The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation has been unresponsive. Yesterday the majority of them decided that they do not want to work further with the construction company anymore (the contractor). And above all this, people who could leave had to pay Rs 1050 as ticket fare. Most of these workers do not have that kind of money. One worker unfortunately lost his son and many workers gave Rs 10 each to him so that he could go home." 

In a video shared by Maraa on Twitter, one of the workers can be heard saying, “The ration shop near the construction site has been shut for a while. There has been always a problem with drinking water. There is a water filter which gives very little water. How can 1,000 labourers manage to drink water?”

Another worker is seen saying that the problem was mentioned even a month ago but the contractor has not done anything other than paying lip service. 

While almost all of them wanted to leave for their hometowns in the trains arranged by the state government, only around 200 of them were allowed to leave, according to Maraa.

Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited Managing Director Ajay Seth is yet to assure the workers their due wages. Despite multiple attempts Seth could not be reached for a comment.

TNM could not reach a relevant police official.

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