A Commonwealth shame by pengxuebo


									                                        A Commonwealth shame?

A Commonwealth shame?

Source: http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Soc/soc.culture.pakistan.politics/2010−03/msg00115.html

      • From: PakistanPal <pakistanpal@xxxxxxxxx>
      • Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2010 03:55:51 −0700 (PDT)

BBC News
Soutik Biswas

I have just finished reading a 116−page report by a committee
appointed by the Delhi high court on the "condition of workers"
engaged in construction work on Commonwealth Games sites in the Indian
capital. The October Games, on which the government is spending more
than $2bn, is the biggest international sporting event India has ever

The report is shocking. It confirms Delhi's worst kept secret − how
the shiny new stadia and other infrastructure hide the exploitative
and unsafe conditions that 150,000 workers have to work under. My
colleagues who have ventured out to report the story have come back
with tales of workers cowering in fear and refusing to talk, and
contractors who hire them refusing to meet for interviews.

Frightening details emerge from separate reports filed by human rights
groups to the high court. Tariq Adeeb of the respected Human Rights
Law Network tells me that independent investigations have found that
more than 70 workers have been killed in accidents at the sites since
work began. In reports submitted to the court, groups talk about 48
workers dying in accidents. The court−appointed committee found that
at the Games village alone, four workers had died in accidents and one
woman worker had died in a fire.

"Accidents are taking place causing injury resulting in death and
disablement − both temporary and permanent," the report for the court
says. The committee investigated 10 Games sites.

Most of the workers at the building and construction sites come from
outside Delhi − mainly Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal,
Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Bihar and Orissa states.

"These workers, says the report, "are being made to work in harsh and
unsafe conditions without basic amenities from the employers

Recruiting agents who hire migrant workers are required to obtain a

A Commonwealth shame?                                                                                     1
                                        A Commonwealth shame?

licence from the authorities from the originating state. The report
found that the majority of agents did not have licences. The workers
are entitled to a "displacement allowance", but almost nobody has been
paid it.

The report says the minimum daily wages are not being paid to all
workers − the minimum daily wage for unskilled workers in Delhi is 151
rupees ($3.30), while the committee found workers on most Games sites
are being paid on average 114 rupees ($2.50).

In many cases, the report says, the workers were not receiving
overtime. And when they were getting it, they were being paid at the
standard rate, not the statutory double time.

The exploitation of labour doesn't appear to end here − the report
says the workers are never given a weekly day off with wages. They
have no proof of employment as no wages slips are being issued.

A separate study by a rights group covering 702 workers at 15 key
sites found that workers were not given leave even if they fell sick,
and medical leave was granted only in 30% of cases. Most sites have
little or no medical facilities.

Workers' safety − as I wrote here some months ago − is also apparently
being widely flouted. Workers do not wear boots or gloves at many
sites. "There were reports of accidents at almost every site, but the
same could not be verified," the report says. Most of these accidents
were not reported to the authorities.

The report has strongly criticised the living conditions of the
workers. "Lack of overall hygiene, environmental sanitation and
cleanliness was deplorable," the report said. Many of the workers
"were living in rooms, often without doors, without protection during
winter, without electricity and without toilets".

It found a bias against hiring women workers − there was only one
crèche found at the Games village site − and that women were being
paid less than men.

The court report says the agencies − government bodies, contractors,
recruiting agents − involved in the construction refuse to take
responsibility for such appalling work conditions and wage violations.
Rights groups say the report is a damning indictment of the way
government and private contractors treat workers and that it also
confirms how they have made a mockery of India's labour and wage laws.

None of the Commonwealth Games officials, including the chairman of
the organising committee, Suresh Kalmadi, took my calls when I tried
to reach them for their reaction to the report. VK Gupta, a senior
engineer of the CPWD, one of the government agencies involved in the
construction work has said the violations are "isolated cases."

A Commonwealth shame?                                                    2
                                        A Commonwealth shame?

Michael Hooper, chief executive of the London−based Commonwealth Games
Federation (CGF), was more forthright saying "there is no excuse for
flouting the law".

"India has laws to protect the lives and safety of its workers.
Obviously there is no excuse for any employer or agency to break these
laws," he told the BBC.

"The contractor and hiring agencies at the Commonwealth Games should
make sure the laws are adhered to. I fully back the recommendations of
the court to have a monitoring group to be put in place to ensure
violations dont happen."

When I asked him whether this was a big embarassment for the Games, Mr
Hooper said: "This [kind of violation] is not unique to India. These
violations, unfortunately, happen all over the word."

But what I find particularly galling is the silence of political
parties on the state of workers. The local Hindu nationalist BJP has
made an issue about the proposed serving of beef to guests at the
Games. The Congress−led Delhi government is going to town with a
planned "good manners" campaign, imploring the city's people to behave
properly during the Games. The parties of the Left are silent. All
this even as the government cleared nearly 700 million rupees in extra
funds for the Games, taking its bloated budget to more than $2bn.

Athletes from 85 countries arrive in Delhi in October to participate
in the 19th Games, which are supposed to showcase India's ability to
host an international event. Human rights groups say it's a sham − and
what was supposed to be a matter of national pride is fast beginning
to look like a national shame.

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