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Govt charged with mistreating workers

delhi Updated: Mar 17, 2010 23:26 IST
Harish V. Nair
Harish V. Nair
Hindustan Times
Govt charged with mistreating workers

A Delhi High Court-appointed high-level committee on Wednesday indicted various authorities and contractors for ignoring the rights of labourers involved in the Commonwealth Games projects.

After a visit spanning a month, they concluded that the plight of the approximately 17,000 labourers toiling day and night in rough weather to make Delhi a world-class city before the Games is indeed “pathetic”.

Those under fire are Sports Authority of India and agencies in charge of constructions - Delhi Government, DDA, CPWD, NDMC, MCD and contractors. The panel has recommended “exemplary” fine on the errant authorities.

On January 27 the court had ordered a five-member committee comprising former UN Ambassador Arundhati Ghosh, Labour Commissioner and Labour Secretary to conduct inspections at various work sites acting on a Public Interest Litigation filed by NGO People’s Union For Democratic Rights.

Basing the plea on two surveys, the NGO had said the labourers were working and living in “highly dangerous and deplorable conditions”.

“They earn lower than the stipulated wage and have no access to even the most basic sanitation and health facilities and were not provided safety equipment,” the PIL stated.

The committee’s preliminary report submitted on Wednesday said, “All allegations made in the PIL are well founded.”

It said minimum wages were not being paid in many cases and most labourers were not paid for doing extra time.

The committee’s report said immediate steps be put in place to start time-bound registration of workers and extending all benefits like weekly offs, hygienic living conditions, etc., to them.

The committee said the labourers were “exploited” since they were hired by private contractors who remain unaware of any liability to observe laws relating to workers' rights.

They were made to live in dingy rooms without proper ventilation and there were no adequate number of toilets.

Senior lawyer and human rights activist Colin Gonsalves appearing for the NGO told the Bench that the plight of the 1982 Asiad workers were the same till the Supreme Court intervened on the same NGO's petition.