Game sites narrate story of woes

Indian labourers work at the National Stadium in New Delhi

Jagbandhu, one of the construction workers at a Games site, complains he is not being paid the minimum wages for his work. He was one of the many workers who had gathered for a Jan Sunwai or public hearing on the condition of construction workers in the capital Tuesday.

"I have been working on various construction sites in Delhi for years, and am now employed at a Commonwealth Games site. During the 12 years that I have been here, I have not got the money that I deserve for my work. I get Rs.100 for work at a Games site, but the thekedar (manager) takes Rs.5 as commission," Jagbandhu said.
"I therefore get only Rs.95 in hand for working the whole day, for more than 12 hours. And leave? Forget about it. We get just two days off in a month," he added.
According to the Delhi government's labour laws, an unskilled worker should be paid Rs.152 a day, a semi-skilled worker - Rs.158 and a skilled worker Rs.168.

Jagbandhu and several other workers were brought for the Jan Sunwai by an NGO, Centre for Advocacy and Research which is working on livelihood issues. Other activists working for the rights of the unorganised sector are also involved in getting the workers to air their grievances.

Sheila Devi, another worker at a Games site, complained that one of the major problems that women workers face is the absence of toilets.
"There are no toilets for women workers, which is a major problem for us. Also we women, despite putting in as much work as the men folk, get unequal wages which is not fair," Devi said.

Lack of electricity, water and health facilities, including creches for the babies, are other problems the workers face.

After listening to the workers, Syeda Hameed, member Planning Commission, said: "The woes of the people that I heard here are not very different from similar public hearings that I have been to in the rest of the country."
"I will try and take the people's voices from here to those who can change things at the government level," she added.

Besides Hameed, the other government representatives at the hearing were Rashmi Singh, Joint Director, department of social welfare of the Delhi government, and Joint Labour Commissioner Piyush Sharma.

According to a study by Building and Woodworkers International, an estimated 300,000 workers are required to be working for an event as big as the Commonwealth Games, over three years time. Among these 100,000 are unskilled construction workers of whom at least 5,000 are women.

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