Wednesday, March 17, 2010

43 deaths at Games project sites, HC told

Forty-three deaths have been recorded at Commonwealth Games construction sites so far, says a report submitted in the Delhi High Court on Wednesday.

The four-member monitoring committee was formed on the High Court’s directive.

According to the Action Taken Report (ATR) submitted by the committee, 41 of 43 deaths were reported on construction sites within the jurisdiction of the Union Labour ministry. The other two deaths were reported on sites under the Delhi government’s jurisdiction. The report says only Rs 1.6 crore had been disbursed to kin of the affected workers.

The report was submitted separately before the Division Bench headed by acting Chief Justice Madan B Lokur. “The ground level reality (as opposed to statutory requirement) is different and rather tragic,” the report notes. “Accidents are taking place, causing injury resulting in death or disablement... work places are extremely unclean, unhygienic and unsafe.

“Safety appliances, conforming to national standards, have either not been issued or (are) not being used.”

Following the Bench’s order last month, the committee was constituted to look into labour law violations and complaints of safety measures at the Games sites, as levelled in a writ petition filed by the People’s Union for Democratic Rights.

The committee has had five meetings till date and visited several Games construction sites to verify the grievances.

An emergency meeting was also called on March 10 when the committee specifically indicted the Welfare Board, constituted under the laws for monitoring the working conditions, saying it was not functioning properly.

In its report, the committee suggested stern monitoring at the work sites to ensure that no contractor or employer breaches labour law provisions. It also suggests ensuring regular wages to all workers. The committee has also urged authorities to allot land for labour colonies so that they have a “decent living.”

During the hearing, Najmi Waziri, standing counsel for the Delhi government, told the Bench that registration of workers has increased manifold and that Rs 28 crore has already been disbursed to them out of the fund. Waziri said all requisites would be implemented by the Welfare Board by the end of April.

The court fixed April 7 as the next date of hearing.

Findings of report
* Reports of accidents from almost every site, but no information to commissioner of workers’ compensation department
* Safety training not being imparted, safety supervision even rarer
* Medical examinations not usually taking place, very few first-aid centres
* Difficult to confirm whether minimum wages were being paid to all workers — neither muster rolls nor wage slips found
* Disparity in wage rate between the Centre and Delhi govt, making implementation difficult
* Workers not receiving overtime; wherever received, it’s not at prescribed rate
* In large number of cases, there was no weekly off
* An unholy alliance between contractor and representative of the principal employer (Centre or Delhi govt) could not be ruled out, proving detrimental to workers’ interests
* Terrible living conditions — GI sheets for hutments make barracks inhabitable in extreme Delhi weather conditions
* Lack of hygiene, environmental sanitation and cleanliness
* Sub-standard accommodation bound to reduce productivity
* Very few workers registered under labour lawsn Bias against employment of women and provisions of suitable amenities

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