Glassware firm blast: Another tragedy, same old scenes of anger and anguish unfold in Telangana

Even though the Telangana labour department estimated compensation, victims' families do not know how to claim it and who to approach.

ByDeepika Pasham

Published Jul 01, 2024 | 3:00 PM Updated Jul 01, 2024 | 9:02 PM

glass factory blast Telangana

Nothing has changed since a wall collapse at Bachupally in Telangana’s Medchal-Malkajgiri district that killed eight in May.

The scene was once again repeated — albeit with a location change — with bereaved relatives of five people killed in a glassware company blast waiting outside the morgue of the Osmania General Hospital.

The pain, the sense of loss, and apprehensions about an uncertain future, all remained the same. The bodies — or what was left of them — meanwhile, waited to be identified as relatives could not recognise their dear ones, lying still, silent, slain, and shattered.

People were not the ones who were slain in the gas compressor explosion; labour laws, rights, and dignity, too, were slain and remained ignored as a couple of people negotiated the price of lives lost.

Those killed in the devastating explosion at the South Glass Private Limited in Shadnagar were migrant laboureres, who had left their homes to eke out a living. All their efforts and dreams were shattered when the blast ripped through the building around 5 pm on 28 June.

Also Read: 7 migrant workers killed after wall collapses in Hyderabad

Wages of death

Even as anger overcame grief, about a dozen police personnel deployed outside the morgue tried to keep tempers from spiralling out of control, hours after the tragedy that snuffed out the lives.

The police had their task cut out. They were assigned to maintain law and order until the bodies were flown out of Shamshabad to the workers’ home states, one in Odisha, and two each in  Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

More than 30 labourers had gathered at the morgue, debating whether to protest in front of a police station or the office of South Glass to meet the owner or accept the compensation.

The discussions went on till 6 pm on Saturday, 29 June. A car rolled in, and two men, previously unknown to the labourers, got out and spoke to the police and then to the contractors. These men were believed to be friends or family members of Shailesh, the owner of South Glass Private Limited.

The men offered a compensation of ₹3 lakh each, ₹27 lakh less than the demanded amount. They later raised the compensation to ₹5 lakh each. They were negotiating the price of life.

Meanwhile, the Telangana labour department estimated compensation of about ₹81.81 lakhs for the five deceased. However, the victims’ families did not know how to claim compensation or whom to approach for assistance.

Also Read: Workers treated like animals, kin demand ₹20 lakh compensation

The backbone of development

A contractor told South First that the situation of daily wage laborers was worsening within the city limits. These men come to work with hopes of supporting their families back in their villages. Most of them are uneducated and unaware of how companies operate; they just come for the salaries,” he said, requesting anonymity.

“Not all of them register with the government’s labour department. They are typically young, aged between 18 and 25. In this particular case in Shadnagar, we contractors have to stand up for the laborers and help them secure their compensation,” he added.

“The real problem arises when laborers lose trust in their employers and return to their villages. If they leave, who will work? As mediators, we have to visit their states and convince them to return,” he added.

Shiva Kumar, 25, pulled out a piece of cloth, worn cravat-like, to wipe his face. He had lost a friend in the tragedy.

“It’s been more than 24 hours, and we’re still trying to identify the bodies. Their bodies are so mutilated that it’s hard to recognise them,” he said.

Kumar’s friend had joined work a month ago. “I was working in another building when the incident occurred. There’s nobody to speak on behalf of my friend,” he added.

He stated that the two men who were negotiating on behalf of the company were strangers. Initially, we asked for ₹30 lakh in compensation, but the company is only offering ₹3 lakh, which we can’t accept. The owner hasn’t even come to see us. We’ve never seen the men who have come to negotiate with us, and how can we trust them,” he asked.

Related: Five dead, 10 injured in Telangana glass factory blast

Firm warned in advance

Kumar said the salaries at the factory ranged from ₹11,000 to ₹15,000 depending on experience, and an amount was deducted towards the Provident Fund. The employers had come to our villages to hire us. We have no information on how to get compensation from the Telangana government,” he said.

Another man, identified only as Sunil, was running around with a bunch of papers in his hand. His brother — or whatever remained of his sibling— was in the morgue.

Sunil claimed the workers had cautioned the supervisor about the compressor. “We don’t know if the warning had reached the higher officials,” he said.

The man added that they had lodged a complaint against the company.

“We’ve asked those the negotiators to transfer the compensation amounts directly into our bank accounts. But, but refused and insisted on issuing cheques,” he said, adding that the company had offered to fly the bodies home. “Two persons can accompany the body,” he claimed.

Shamshabad Deputy Commissioner of Police K Narayana Reddy said a case has been registered against the company owner, Shailesh Gupta, under sections 336 and 304A of the IPC. The injured workers are undergoing treatment at the Viva Hospital in Shadnagar,” he added.

(Edited by Majnu Babu)

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