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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 48 November 25, 2023

Silkyara Tunnel collapse exposes the callous attitude of the Govt towards safety norms | Joint Statement from Unions

Saturday 25 November 2023


Press Release

The following statement was issued by the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions, Sectoral Federations/Associations on 22nd November 2023.

41 workers trapped in Silkyara Tunnel exposes the callous attitude of the Government towards Occupational Safety and Health of the workers.

The Platform of Central Trade Unions and Sectoral Federations/Associations express their anguish at the failure of the authorities to take responsibility for the Silkyara Tunnel collapse in Uttarakashi, Uttarakhand.

Accidents at work places expose the weaknesses of laws in regard to work place safety of workers, rather the laxity and violations of whatever existing norms are there get exposed with every incident. The latest, the Silkyara Tunnel collapse, is only one in a series of such accidents.

41 workers are trapped in the tunnel and it is life and death question for them and their families. The rescue operation has had to be halted. The team has been sent from the Centre very late to monitor the rescue operation.

The other workers are telling that the escape routes/tunnels, which are compulsary to meet such emergency situations in construction of long tunnels, were not even planned! They were so provided while the 9 km long Chenani-Nashri tunnel was constructed in J&K.

The geologists and experts have come forward telling that the Companies and agencies involved in tunnel construction in India tend to overlook safety concerns and measures suggested by them for the sake of cutting costs and maximising profits! Principles of New Austrian Tunneling Method, which is both a construction method and a design philosophy, are also not followed in the true sense.

There are serious concerns raised by one expert that the toxic gases being generated inside the tunnel are not being channeled out. The workers complained that the Hume pipes which were placed after one of the earlier accidents, had also been removed even before completion of work at the tunnel.

We demand that the rescue operation be expedited to save the workers. There should be a thorough probe into the laxity at any level, right from tendering to various other stages of work of the tunnel.

We demand the Occupational Safety and Health Code, based on the premise of "ease of doing business", be withdrawn forthwith, which weakens whatever safety measures exist at present, rather pushes the workers out of the safety net.

The Government should ratify the ILO conventions about health and safety, which have been brought under Fundamental Principles of Rights at Work by ILO in its session in 2022.

We demand that all the four codes, including the Code on OSH, be withdrawn and ILC should be held at the earliest to address the workers concerns on codification of laws.

And independent Sectoral Federations/Associations

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