Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Workers at Commonwealth Games sites an exploited lot: Panel

In a big embarrassment to the Centre and Delhi government ahead of the Commonwealth Games, a committee appointed by the Delhi High Court has said that workers at Games-related construction sites were not being paid minimum wages and were being made to work overtime for no extra money.

The four-member committee was set up to inquire into allegations levelled in a PIL which said conditions of workers at construction sites was miserable. In its report submitted to the court, the committee said the charges made in the PIL are "well founded".

Recommending "exemplary fine" be levied on errant authorities, the report said steps needed to be taken to start timebound registration of workers and extending to them benefits like weekly offs and hygienic living conditions.

After spending a month visiting several construction sites, the committee found that labourers were being exploited since they were hired by contractors unaware of labour laws.

The committee said many accidents at these sites were never reported while workers continued to work without safety gear. It also said muster rolls were not verified and that abuse of migrant workers was common.

The committee comprised Arundhati Ghose, former representative to the UN, NHRC's LN Mishra and labour commissioner and labour secretary of Delhi government.

No access for panel to sites under DIAL, DMRC

The high court panel members could not access sites under the control of DIAL and DMRC to check if workers at Games-related construction sites were not exploited due to security reasons, the report said. Respondents in the PIL include the Union and Delhi governments, NDMC and Sports Authority of India.

The report recommends that the workers be provided clean and hygienic living spaces, their wages be paid through zero balance accounts and they be registered by the welfare board.

Filed by the Peoples' Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR), the PIL had alleged that workers were being housed in 'crowded hovels' with no protection during winter, no power and filthy or no toilets.

PUDR urged the court to ensure the workers get insurance cover, wage slips, paid weekly offs, proper medical facilities and workmen compensation, among other things.

Estimating the daily wage contract workers to number roughly 4,15,000, the PIL said since the Games-related construction work had been farmed out to private contractors who provided inhuman working and living conditions for the labourers.

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