New Delhi : Better late than never – so says civil society, responding to the Delhi High Court’s decision to appoint a committee to ensure implementation of labour laws in the Commonwealth Games project sites.
“We definitely welcome the High Court’s decision. We were the main petitioner in the case and although this decision should have come long time back, we are happy that it has come at last,” Moushumi Basu, secretary, People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) told IANS.
The Delhi High Court Wednesday appointed a four-member committee constituting the labour commissioner and the labour secretary of the Delhi government, former Indian ambassador to the US Arundhati Ghosh and special rapporteur of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Lakshmidhar Mishra to ensure that the workers’ rights in the games sites are not violated.
The court Jan 27 had issued notices to the central government, Delhi government, Sports Authority of India and all concerned civic agencies after hearing a petition filed by the PUDR, which stated that as many as 49 workers had died due to harsh and miserable working conditions.
“There are accidents happening at the construction sites and access to basic amenities are denied to the workers. It becomes even more difficult for NGOs to work for the workers because we are denied access to the sites- not even the media is allowed in them,” Basu said.
“The formation of this committee will now at least pressurise the labour department to make sure that the workers are registered and ensure that their rights are not denied. Can you imagine if gross violations like not paying the minimum wage to a worker can happen in the national capital, what is the state elsewhere?” she asked.
According to the Citizens for Workers, Women and Children, an umbrella NGO of other organisations, blatant violations of workers’ rights take place at the games construction sites.
In a public hearing of the workers’ plight last year, a number of labourers who work at the games sites said that they were paid less than the stipulated minimum wages- the rest being usurped by the contractors.
“Unskilled workers are paid Rs.85-100 for eight hours of work, when the stipulated minimum wage is Rs.142. Skilled workers on the other hand are paid Rs.120-130 for eight hours of work, when they should be paid Rs.158,” said Rajesh Das, an activist.
“Not just this, the workers are not given leave and in many cases, not even paid regularly. Most of them are not given basic safety equipment while at work and if the worker is a woman, the pay is even more paltry,” Das added.
“The court’s decision is welcome news. The workers’ rights must be respected and basic access to facilities should be ensured,” Das further said.
The court has asked the committee to meet Feb 8 to ensure implementation of the Labour Law Act.
“Let’s see how the decision shapes up now. The committee will give its report and I hope things work out for the best and we at least have access to the games construction sites,” Basu said.