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NGOs ask Dikshit to look into Games Village workers’ plight


New Delhi : Deplorable and unhygienic living conditions, freak accidents and many deaths. Upset by the saga of the construction workers at the Commonwealth Games Village here, a group of NGOs and individuals has urged Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to intervene.

The Commonwealth Games Citizens for Workers, Women and Children, a network of NGOs, individuals and construction workers’ unions, said that they have submitted a list of four demands to the chief minister to help the workers.

Kapil Mishra of the Youth for Justice group, which works on social issues, said that he and his colleagues spent six days outside the Games Village and unearthed stories of misery from the workers coming out of the gates of the Village.

“Although we don’t have anything as proof, we have the interviews of the workers who told us that the a number of people have lost their lives inside the Village, either in freak accidents or illnesses caused due to unhygienic living conditions,” Mishra said at a press conference in the capital Tuesday.

“The recent spurt in cases of meningitis from the Commonwealth Village combined with the testimonials of the workers there about the lack of proper health facility and basic hygiene, goes to prove that something’s definitely wrong. And it needs to be investigated,” Mishra said.

Mahendra Pal is one of the many workers who left work at the Games Village for fear of losing his life.

“There were too many people dying. Some die after they are injured during construction, while others lose their lives due to illnesses. But god knows where the dead bodies go, we never get to see them,” Pal said in a recorded video clip outside the Games Village.

“Most of us don’t even have an identity card. There are not enough toilets, we drink ground water and sleep on three-tier beds made of plywood planks,” said Ashok Lal, whose brother-in-law Shyaman Lal died of meningitis while at the Village.

“It’s only Shyaman Lal’s family which has his death certificate because they somehow managed to take him to a government hospital days before he died,” Mishra said.

“Some workers say that about 50 people have died inside the Village, some say 150. There’s no exact number that we can give. But all that we are saying is: doesn’t this even call for an investigation? Why isn’t anyone allowed inside the Village?” Mishra said.

In a letter to Dikshit, the group has made four demands.

“We demand that there should be a joint commission of enquiry by a group constituting civil society members, builders and officials, into what the workers have been saying. Then, there should be regular monitoring into the safety issues at all construction sites.

“Third, every construction site should have a permanent public health facility, and fourth, there should be a special compensation package for the family of the deceased,” said Anjali Alexander of Mobile Creches, a non-profit organisation.

The workers at the Commonwealth Games Village are not registered with the Delhi Construction Workers Welfare Board and thus not entitled to the welfare fund of Rs.1.2 billion, said the group members, urging that registration be made compulsory for all workers.

There are an estimated 3,000-5,000 workers at the Games Village, mostly migrants from West Bengal, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh.