Thursday, April 9, 2009

BUILDING BLOCKS

A new storey is being added to the college-building I work in. One spanking new floor atop the existing five floors. Which means more classrooms, more students, more revenue for the college. More comfort for the management.

What it DOES NOT MEAN is more comfort for the workers slogging in the April heat to build this storey before June, when the new session starts. Their story remains unchanged, though the change the cityscape ever so often.

The volleyball ground is overrun with snotty-nosed little children running about butt-naked and dusty. Their dishevelled over-burdened mothers peep out from temporarily-erected asbestos shelters with makeshift doors creaking on their hinges. Some of the broken bits of wood and board are used to light fires on which food is cooked. Actually, food is a euphemism, because what is being cooked would perhaps not go down our pampered-priveleged throats. Raggedy clothes hang in drooping washing-lines strung between the trees. Clothes that would have abandoned by us in dustbins long back. And a line of gaunt, sun-darkened workers, men and women, trudge up and down balancing loads on their heads, making a brick-cement-mortar building they themselves will never be able to live in.


History tells us that exploited slaves built the Pyramids. That the poor workers who built the lavish Taj Mahal had their hands cut off. But that terrible irony is not just history, it is also continuing reality we witness everyday. Only now we do not cut off their hands. Because we need a new Taj Mahal everyday, in every part of every metropolis. And we need a steady stream of hungry, hollow-eyed, , hard-working workers to build for us our highrises where we can eat and sleep and chill-out.

17 comments:

June Saville said...

SUCHARITA
Thank you for this wonderful heartfelt post. Thank you for having open eyes. And thank you for your empathy. There should be more people such as you ...

lopamudra said...

I hear so many housing plans coming up for the construction workers ,maybe in near future they too will have their dream realised.Hoping....

ugich konitari said...

And what can you say about places that teach how to build, teach safety, and when you see high rise hostels and departments being constructed, not a single worker , working on a ledge of the 10th floor, has a protective helmet.

(On the same campus, a well known company was contracted to construct a multistoryed building years ago, and they insisted on all workers wearing helmets, whether working high up, or wandering through the site .)

Pradip Biswas said...

It is the attitude of the contractor building the infrastructure and the understanding between the contractor and project authority. If it is a high rise building the protective gears and the distance to be maintained for manpower residence for the project are givenand are mandatory in nature. Nobody bothers untill some mishap happens. If so happens nobody is spared as per the regulatory authority.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi June,

I do have empathy, but maybe I need to act rather than talk.

Lopa,

We're all hoping as well, but you know what electoral promises are like.

Suranga,

That's a very valid point. Since most of the men working are sole breadwinners (and even if they are not), helmets are a basic safety requirement.

Pradip-da,

Govt apathy can only be temporarily replaced by sporadic action. Sooner or later, apathy reclaims its supremacy.

Indyeah said...

:((
yes it is heartbreaking to see that and Ugich has made a valid point...

Heartfelt post Sucharita...these lines said it all
''But that terrible irony is not just history, it is also continuing reality we witness everyday. Only now we do not cut off their hands. Because we need a new Taj Mahal everyday, in every part of every metropolis. ''

Double-Dolphin said...

Well, from slaves, to hands cut off, to now poorly paid labourers, things do seem to be getting better...maybe in another 1000 years we'll have robots doing manual labour instead of people.

Double-Dolphin said...

Kinda reminds you of the Eloi and the Morlocks, doesn't it?

Koel said...

nice post sumidi....grim reminder of the reality that we see everyday around us...but i feel however little, things are changing...everyone tries for a better life today, and with little help from us - the so called educated elite, things can go a long way in improving the life of the people

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Indyeah,

Thanks. Your blog has a strong social/poltical conscience, so you'll under stand these issues even better.

Koel,

I admire your optimism because I know it comes from the heart.

Double-D,

Eloi and the Morlocks is it...but sadly, in the here and the now, instead of the time-traveller's future vision.

nsiyer said...

People who build houses, monuments never see the light of the day. They move from place to place without anything to call their own.

magiceye said...

poignant

Lazyani said...

Being in the same trade of real esate for the last 14 years, I can jolly well visualize what you have written.

A lot has been discussed about the issue over numerous cups of coffe/tea and suitable snacks but the status quo remains.

The guilt consciousness always kills the joy of creation.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

NSIyer, Magiceye and Lazyani,

I share your sympathy, sense of poignant irony and consciousness of guilt.

Ankit said...

The subject of your post was an ongoing conflict in my mind. I work for a company in Canada and their work principle is that even if any worker has to get on top of a ladder which is more that 6 ft you have to get 2 hr formal training for safety.

And if we have to get on top aerial platforms which are more than 10-20 ft then one has to do formal training for 2 days and then use a lot of safety equipment while doing the work.

It makes me wonder what is great about our great India and who is the one to be blamed. Is it us?

For most of the things I think that there is not even a way to fix.

As you mentioned in your post that all this has been going on since the time Taj Mahal was built. Someone should have done something for those poor workers.

But the question is what someone should have done what some thing?

Aren't there any basic safety laws to be foolwed while doing these construction work.

Well I will stop now, its your blog.

Sumandebray said...

It touched my heart ... yea it is so true.
But irony is that we all feel it but do not do enough....
Which city are you in .. it is very common sight in our city of Joy...
Need to do something

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Hi Ankit and Suman,

It is heartening to read about your concern. Ankit, thanks for telling us about the security procedures prevalent in Canada. India has copied the highrise approach to progress, without putting in place the necessary checks and saftey measures that go along with it.