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A dipping graph in occupational safety and health

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A dipping graph in occupational safety and health

  • Recently the CRUSHED Report 2021 released by Safe in India (SII), reported a dismal picture concerning occupational safety and health in the auto sector.
  • Occupational safety and health (OSH) has not received due attention from law-makers and even trade unions in India.

Context

  • Occupational safety and health (OSH) is an existential human and labour right.
  • There is a need for a comprehensive review of labour inspection and the labour statistical system 
  • There are two primary requirements to ensure safe workplaces: 1. A strong monitoring (inspections)
  1. Comprehensive database to frame corrective actions and policies.
  • It becomes important to understand the statistical profile relating to industrial accidents in India and the quality of inspections.

Many shortcomings

  • Statistics concerning industrial accidents are produced by the Labour Bureau.
  • It compiles and publishes data on industrial injuries relating only to a few sectors: 
  1. Factories
  2. Mines
  3. Railways
  4. Docks and ports. But the data suffer from several shortcomings.
  • It is inexplicable why the Labour Bureau has not considered expanding the scope of statistics on injuries by adding sectors such as plantations, construction, the service sector, etc.
  • The data it produces is not representative of the situation in India as several major States default in the provision of data to the Labour Bureau.
  • Example: during 2013-14 - States such as Delhi, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal defaulted.
  • It is not surprising that the number of non-fatal injuries declined from 21,370 during 2010-2015 to 5,811 during 2016-2019.
  • There we get a ridiculous statistic of average total injuries per factory at 0.02 (5,562/353,226) during 2017-2019.
  • It may be added here that the drop is far higher in the case of non-fatal injuries than for fatal ones.

Data on States

  • Here data on industrial injuries published in the Indian Labour Statistics by the Labour Bureau has been used.
  • Gujarat's share for 2006 was 14.98% of total fatal and 25.70% of total nonfatal injuries,
  • Kerala's shares for 2005, respectively, were 2.94% and 6.73%,
  • Tamil Nadu's shares for 2005 , respectively, were 8.16% and 11.11%,
  • Maharashtra's shares for 2004 were 25.65% and 36.78% and for 2014, it was 12.62% and 57%,
  • Odisha's shares for 2006 were 37.73% and 21.99%.
  • Here we can make a statement that the reported figures for fatal injuries for all-India would be less by around 40%-50% and that for nonfatal injuries by at least 50%.

There is under-reporting

  • Even if States sent their data to the Labour Bureau, the States’ data are more likely to suffer from underreporting.
  • Under-reporting is more likely to be in case of non-fatal injuries than fatal ones for obvious reasons.
  • The SSI’s report shows massive under-reporting of industrial injuries occurring in Haryana.
  • Its report covering a segment of the auto sector in Gurugram and Faridabad showed that since 2017, on average 500 workers have received nonfatal injuries.
  • The under-reporting of industrial injuries, unlike for strikes and lockouts, is a far more serious issue and cause for grave concern.
  • According to the Directorate General, Factory Advice and Labour Institutes (DGFASLI)’s Standard Reference Note for 2020: the proportion of working in sanctioned posts for factory inspectors for India was 70.60%, But major States such as Maharashtra (38.93%), Gujarat (57.52%), Tamil Nadu (58.33%), and Bihar (47.62%) had poor employment rates of inspectors. 
  •  In 2019, there was an inspector for every 487 registered factories: this reveals the heavy workload of inspectors.
  • The inspector per 1,000 workers employed in factories is a meagre 0.04, it means there is an inspector for every 25,415 workers.
  • The inadequacy of the inspectorate system is so obvious.

Factory inspections, convictions

  • The proportion of registered factories inspected for all-India declined from 36.23% during 2008-11 to 34.65% during 2012-2015 and further to 24.76%.
  • While Kerala and Tamil Nadu had higher inspection rates at 63%-66%, Gujarat and Kerala had lower rates at 26%-30% and Haryana the lowest at 11.09% during 2008-2019.
  • The inspection rates declined in all five States.
  • The decline over the three sub-periods noted above for Maharashtra (31% to 12%) and Haryana (14% to 7%) was much higher (50% and over) than for others.
  • The factory inspectorates were inadequately equipped and worse, the inspection rates fell in almost all the States over the last 12 years.
  • Inspectors cannot feasibly inspect every factory, so they used their discretion to target the easy factories to demand compromising payments.
  • Many of them belong to the powerful industry groups which have successfully lobbied against the inspection system.
  • For all India, the conviction rate for 2015-2019 stood at 61.39% and the average fine per conviction was ₹12,231.
  • The efficiency of the penal system is low as the percentage of decided cases out of total cases is a poor 15.74% during 2015-19.
  • The SII’s findings are similar to these.
  • During the four of five years of 2015-19, some imprisonments took place,
  1. In Tamil Nadu - 11,215 in 2017 and 45 in other three years,
  2. Chhattisgarh - 17 in two years
  3. Telangana - 3 in 2016
  4. One each in Kerala and Punjab.
  • But in Haryana or in other States, there were no imprisonments.

Issues pertaining

  • The mindless liberalisation of the inspection system as has been effected during the last 20 years will not promote sound labour market governance.
  • Simplifying the annual returns and self-certification systems weakens the already poorly placed labour statistical system regarding all variables especially industrial injuries
  • This is because of low reporting by firms to State labour departments and the latter to the Labour Bureau.
  • India has ratified ILO conventions, the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (convention 81) and Labour Statistics Convention, 1985 (convention 160) and these defects violate the conventions. 

Conclusion

  • Government is in the process of framing the Vision@2047 document for the Labour Ministry to overcome these issues.
  • So against these tenets, the labour codes, especially the OSH Code, the inspection and the labour statistical systems should be reviewed.

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