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India: Gross Denial of Workers Rights at New Delhi’s Commonwealth Games Construction Site

by PUDR, 1 May 2009

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In 1982, the Asian Games were held in India in Delhi. At that time, PUDR had conducted a survey of Asiad’s construction sites and found gross violations of several labour laws. On the basis of these findings, a letter was written to Justice P.N. Bhagwati, the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who accepted the locus standi of PUDR in the matter, heard the case as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and gave a historic judgment in favour of the Asiad workers. Now, more than two decades later, the country is going to hold an even bigger international sports event—the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Given our experience of the Asiad Games, PUDR decided to investigate the working conditions at the construction sites for the Games as soon as the construction began there. We tried to investigate working conditions at the Commonwealth Games Village site near Akshardham temple for almost a year. In contrast to the Asiad times, the access to the construction site itself turned out to be a big hurdle.There was a great deal of secrecy and we were denied access to the work sites despite repeated attempts. Our efforts to seek permission from the administration to visit the site were also futile. Often, ‘terrorism’ was cited as the reason for denying permission. The construction companies and the state seemed to be working hand in glove to prevent any monitoring of the conditions at the work sites. On 14 December 2008, a worker died in an accident at the same site. What followed was unprecedented: workers at the site struck work and demanded that his body be released and shown to, them. They also demanded better working, living and sanitation conditions. This incidence also paved the way for PUDR to conduct a fact finding and speak to some workers at the site. Although it must be mentioned that this could not continue for too long because of physical threats as well as intimidation by goons of the construction company.

This report attempts to show how the administration is colluding with builders by giving them a free hand vis-à-vis the labour laws, and how this has led to the denial of fundamental rights to the poorest citizens of India.

In the Name of National Pride: Blatant Violation of Workers’ Rights at the Commonwealth Games site
People’s Union For Democratic Rights, New Delhi
- April 2009