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Families of labourers who lost their lives on the job in Parbat await compensation




Kamal Rai, a technician deployed at a construction site of the Mid Hill Highway, died on September 23 last year when a mud mound collapsed on him. A resident of Belbari in Morang, had come into contact with his employer, Lama Constructions, when he was an engineering student. He started working with the project as a sub-engineer while also pursuing his engineering degree. When he died he left behind a family who is still awaiting compensation from the construction company. The family only received money to perform the last rites, says Bimal Rai, Kamal’s brother. “We have been frequenting the company for compensation, but have not received anything,” he said. The contractor company was to provide Rs 1 million as compensation.On January 10, Bholanath Chaudhary, a resident of Saptari, died on his job. He was hired by Phewa Constructions for a bridge project at Tilahar in the district. His family too is waiting for compensation. Nir Kumar Rai, the operator of Phewa Constructions, said since the company buys insurance policies based on the number of workers, it could be a while before Chaudhary’s family is compensated. “We just mention the number of labourers at a site when we buy insurance policies. That’s why it takes a little longer to claim compensation,” said Rai. “We have sent a letter to the insurance company for Chaudhary’s insurance claim. We are waiting for their response.” The insurance policy that Phewa Construction bought for its workers will cover the claim up to Rs 500,000 in case of death of an unskilled worker and Rs 1 million in case of death of a skilled worker.In the past seven months, eight workers associated with various construction companies in Parbat died in job site accidents. None of the families of these workers has received compensation so far.“The deceased were mostly construction workers and technicians,” said Shyamu Aryal, chief at the District Police Office.According to the legal provisions, a construction company (with government or private contracts) should provide life insurance to their workers.“Until construction companies have insured their worker, they do not receive the budget to start work,” said Gaurabdas Bairagi, information officer of the Infrastructure Development Office in Parbat. According to him, a construction company has to issue an insurance policy to its workers on the basis of the scale (large, medium or small) of the project and its total budget. Aryal said they have been urging the concerned builders and insurance companies to provide compensation to the families of deceased workers. “The police provides all necessary documents to the concerned authorities to facilitate the insurance process. We prepare police reports of such deaths,” he said. Om Giri, branch manager of Lumbini Insurance, said life insurance companies can easily grant compensation to construction workers on the basis of police report. “If a construction company has insured its workers, the compensation amount could be released within a month,” said Giri, adding that the problem arises when the contractor companies fill the paperwork in a haste to start the construction work. According to Infrastructure Development Office, there are around 5,000 workers working in various small and large scale projects in Parbat. A majority of them are from Morang, Saptari, Humla, Dhading, Chitwan and Jumla. Suman Chepang, a worker from Chitwan, said he came to work in Parbat through an agent. “We don’t know the representative of the contractor company,” said Chepang, adding that he does not know if he is insured. Most unskilled workers like Chepang find work in construction sites through agents who promise them Rs 800 to Rs 900 daily wage. However, most of these workers take home only Rs 500 per day while the agents pocket the rest of the amount, said Chepang.“Although the workers are promised a higher pay, the agents do not keep their promise,” said Harinarayan Regmi, a legal practitioner in the district. “When a worker dies on the job, it becomes difficult for his family to survive.”Arun Gurung, a representative of Phewa Constructions, said most of the large projects cannot get workers without agents. “We cannot find workers if we do not rely on agents, who normally fix and pay the wage to the workers,” said Gurung. Reflecting on the pitiable work condition of the labour class in the country, Aananda Gaundel, a resident of Phalebas, said that he would prefer going abroad for employment than working in construction projects in the country. “There’s no safety and decent pay for workers. If a worker dies on the job, his family has to run from pillar to post to receive compensation,” Gaundel said.“I plan to go to Portugal to find work. I have handed over Rs 1.8 million to an agent for a Portugal visa. At least my family’s future will be safe if I go there.”

Read the full story on The Kathmandu Post

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