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HC pulls up Delhi govt for Games workers' plight

Describing the plight of Commonwealth Games workers as a “complex human problem” arising from “flouting of welfare provisions bound by law,” the Delhi High Court has drafted a five-point directive for the state government and other agencies and ordered their early execution

On May 26, 2010, the Delhi High Court ordered the Delhi government and other agencies to speed up registration of workers at construction sites for the Commonwealth Games. “These people are neglected… they must be protected. There should be no kind of exploitation of these workers. The government agencies must adopt a positive approach,” the court observed. 

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Madan B Lokur expressed concern when they learnt that only 400 workers out of 40,000 had been registered; they decided to draw up rules for the authorities after observing that while registration of workers might be ongoing, there are still thousands left to be registered. 

On January 27, 2010, the court ordered an inspection after admitting a public interest petition filed by the non-government organisation People’s Union For Democratic Rights. The court constituted a five-member monitoring committee, including former UN ambassador Arundhati Ghosh, the labour commissioner and the labour secretary, to inspect Commonwealth Games sites. 

A report by the monitoring committee, later in March, revealed that 43 workers had died at various construction sites while thousands of others were deprived of minimum wages and other entitlements. The court told the authorities to ensure compliance with provisions relating to the country’s labour laws. 

The court’s first directive to the Delhi government and agencies like the MCD, NDMC, DDA, DMRC, DIAL, PWD and CPWD, was to make “all possible” effort to register the maximum number of workers so that they were not deprived of statutory benefits. In its second point, the bench held that providing identity cards was essential as this was also the way to avoid future unwarranted litigation. 

“Passbooks (a booklet for registered workers carrying benefits like loans, insurance and medical cover, among others) should also be given to all workers and the concerned labour department should monitor this. They must ensure that people working in this weather have food, clothing and shelter and live with dignity,” the bench said. 

For the first time since the petition was taken up in January, the court asked the state government to draft an education scheme for workers’ children, noting that illiteracy was the root of problems relating to their welfare. The fourth directive regarding education for workers’ children came as the court took into account the widespread illiteracy among workers. 

The fifth directive asked the authorities to ensure medical facilities along with benefits relating to maternity, death, accident, and insurance, after guidelines were framed. The court directed the Delhi government and other agencies to file a compliance report by July 7. 

The 2010 Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held later this year between October 3 and 14. This will be the largest multi-sport event conducted to date in Delhi and India, which hosted the Asian Games in 1951 and 1982. 

Source: The Indian Express, May 27, 2010
  , May 2010