Metro rail workers falling victims to respiratory ailments

Kishan Das, 32, goes about doing his work quietly, without drawing any attention to himself. Till he has his coughing fits. 

“I sometimes cough continuously for 10 minutes,” he says.

Kishan is one of the construction workers at Namma Metro sites and, he suffers from respiratory problems ranging from coughs to difficulty in breathing.

All the workers at most of the construction sites are from West Bengal, Odisha and Bihar and, have come here for better work prospects.

Anil, 29, a worker from Odisha says his health has deteriorated since he started working here. “I started working as a  construction worker two-and-a-half-years ago. I was healthy and rarely fell sick. But, now I get fever at least once in two months,” he says. The workers added that they visit doctors frequently.

“I visited the doctor after I found that I couldn’t breathe properly at night. The doctor gave me medicines but there has been no much improvement,” says Naeem, another worker. “I have now learnt to deal with the problem. Who will keep going to the doctor?” he questions.

Doctors at Victoria Hospital said the problem is common with most construction workers in the city.

“There is so much dust around the Namma Metro construction sites that we have to cover our faces when we pass the area. These workers inhale dust every day. It takes a toll on their health,” the doctor said not wishing to be named.

The workers who do 10 to 12 hour shifts say they don’t get any protective gear such as gloves or masks from the contractor or Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL). “The traffic policeman at the signal opposite our site gets a mask to cover his face, but we don’t get any such thing. We work in the dust from which they need protection. But, nobody gives it a thought,” says Kishan.

When contacted, BMRCL spokesperson B L Y Chavan, said: “I will need more time to comment on this. I will have to check with the departments concerned.” (Names of the workers have been changed on request.)