I still struggle with one thing in my understanding the way the skilled labors work. The main reason for us to engage a skilled labor is that not only we can do that work but we cannot do it as we expect the result. But in several times, even those skilled labors don’t do the work the way we expect them to do it, but even to the level their professional skill requires it.
Some of my personal experience can better illustrate what I try to communicate. Irrespective of our repeated explanation, in several bath rooms the water will never go to the ‘nali drop’ side but always will come to the door side flooding the room. The same is the case with the sink in the kitchen. Water will always come to the stove side in stead of going to the sink. Tails in the bath room will be fixed in such a way that after finish the bath we have to dry the room as some water will come through the door to the room.
During the construction of our ashram, I specifically told the contractor that I want the ‘serving’ window to be above three feet only. But when I came after a week, the labors fixed it for more than four feet. When I questioned about it, the contractor coolly without having any remorse said, ‘the labors didn’t understand what you said’. When I asked him to change it, he suggested to put one foot elevated platform in front of the serving window to reduce the height as I wanted it to be.
One more final example will illustrate the carelessness of the skilled workers. When the four inch pipe was fixed under the ground to take the night soil, I specifically told the Plummer that the pipe on the ground level should be fixed with slop so that the water can freely flow to the septic tank pit. As I was busy with other work, I cannot stand with him when he was fixing it. But before he fixes the pipe again I went and told him specifically to keep the level with slop. After ten minutes I sent another person to tell him specifically to keep the pipe not flat but with lop. But when I come back after an hour, he has done exactly opposite. When I questioned about it and with anger asked why he has done it exactly opposite what I asked him to do, without showing any remorse he coolly said that he will fix it. So not arguing with him I returned. But when I went again to see how he is fixing it, I saw him cutting a new pipe to make a ‘color’ to join with slop. Now more damage is done. Anyhow as I cannot do anything about it, I told him not waste his time by making a color to join but go the shop and buy new one. But he never listened and repeatedly assured me that he can make a color quickly and fix it. But he spent not only 90 minutes to make a color, but wasted the liquid cement to burn the pipe to make a color. When finally he fixed it, I become completely upset. Because as he made his own color by burning we can see the burnt mark on the pipe. When I pointed it, he again coolly said, ‘you can easily paint the entire pipe’. But the worst thing in it is that he cut a small portion of a costly big pipe which I kept to bring the rain water from the terrace to the rain-harvest tank. It cannot be used as now it is short for that purpose.
That evening before he left after receiving the payment I told him, ‘for your work you receive fifty rupees for one hour. And to make a color you spent nearly 90 minutes and also wasted liquid cement. Now I have to paint the entire pipe to cover the burnt marks. I have to buy another costly four inch pipe for the rain-harvest. Whereas, if you were bit careful, you could have avoided all this. Above all, I told you several times not to waste your time by making a color but get new one from the shop which will cost around Thirty rupees. Now you not only spoiled the entire work but almost wasted nearly Seventy five rupees of your labor charge (90 minutes to make it). Now I have to spent money to paint and labor cost for that plus a new four inch pipe for rain-water harvest (apart from the waste of liquid cement). Whereas you to rectify your mistake you could have got a new color at my cost just for thirty rupees (Rs.30/-), whereas now I have to spend more than Rs. 600/-.
I tell to anyone come to work for me, ‘I never expect you to work faithfully for the money that you charge. But at least don’t make me to incur any loss.’
However labor is skilled in his profession, he too prone to make some mistake. But finally the owner alone end up in bearing all the loss. Of course in every construction, the owner has to incur certain loss. But the way they take it coolly without any remorse on their part for the damage that they have done remains a permanent irritation in our mind whenever we look that damage often. And those who fight for the right of the labors never pay attention to this area in their struggle for Labor’s Rights.
Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam. February 4, 2010