CURRENT FOCUS

Common Cause and Lokniti Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), launched India’s first Status of Policing in India Report (SPIR 2018) at the India Habitat Centre on May 9.

Read More+

COMMONWEALTH GAMES: GROUND REALITIES

eaders may recall that under the same rubric our last issue had carried a report on the PIL filed jointly by Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangh and Common Cause in the High Court of Delhi for securing the long-denied rights of Delhi’s construction workers. Reproduced below are the text of the petition, the order of the Delhi High Court constituting a Monitoring Committee to report on the averments made in the petition and an executive summary of the report submitted by the Monitoring Committee. These documents bring out the stark reality of the situation of the hapless construction workers toiling on various projects related to the high profile Commonwealth Games. The expenditure on these projects has exceeded the budgeted outlays by a wide margin; the project contractors and their principals have benefited from this bounty; but the poor workers continue to be deprived of their legitimate dues.

 

-Editor

IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI

EXTRA ORDINARY CIVIL JURISDICTION

WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 524 OF 2010

MEMO OF PARTIES

IN THE MATTER OF:

1. Peoples Union for Democratic Rights …............................ Petitioners

2. Nirmaan Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam

3. COMMON CAUSE

Versus

Union of India and ors …..........................................................................................................Respondents

New Delhi

20.01.2010

SYNOPSIS

1. For the 18th Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in Delhi in October 2010, over Rs. 17,400 crores (Rs 7000 crores for sports facilities and related infrastructure like roads, flyovers and parking lots; Rs 5,400 for the renovated international airport in Delhi, Rs 5000 crores for phase II of the metro expansion by 2010) has been provided by the Union of India and the Delhi Government for improving city infrastructure and sports facilities. Construction projects have been assigned to respondents, no. 2, 3, 4, 11 and 12, given to agencies such as respondents no. 6 and 7, who, in turn, have contracted work out to real estate developers and construction companies for the execution of the projects. At its peak, over mid-2008 to mid-2009, all projects would have employed a total of over 1 lakh workers. Today, at least 15,000 contract/daily wage workers are working on these projects. This petition relates to the manner in which these workers are treated in contravention of law.

2. It is stated at the outset that the petitioners do not wish to hamper or adversely affect the progress of the projects in any way. At the same, time the petitioners believe that the non implementation of labour laws is unacceptable even in the context of a time bound programme. The Petitioners believe that it is possible for the projects to be completed on time while ensuring that labour rights are not violated. Unfortunately, the respondents aforementioned as well as their numerous contractors and executing agencies have got used to the idea that they are not accountable for the working and living conditions of workers employed in their projects and can pass up their responsibility, ignoring the legal requirements. This has resulted in inhuman conditions for construction workers in Delhi. This petition has been filed to correct that impression and to bring much needed relief to the poor and vulnerable construction workers.

3. The petitioners wish to focus on the Commonwealth Games related projects and their workers for two reasons – first, because of the time bound nature of these projects and the urgency to reach the workers; second because of the implications this will have for the entire lot of construction workers in Delhi and the rest of the country.

4. In 1982, in the case of Peoples Union for Democratic Rights Vs. Union of India (1982 3 SCC 235), the Supreme Court intervened to provide relief to the workmen in the various projects connected with the Asiad Games. It was alleged that workers were not paid the minimum wage. By order dated 11.5.82, the Supreme Court directed that at least the minimum wages be paid. Since there were disputes over facts, the Court: “appointed 3 ombudsmen and requested them to make periodical inspections of the sites of the construction work for the purpose of ascertaining whether the provisions of these labour laws were being carried out and the workers were receiving the benefits and amenities provided for them under these beneficent statutes or whether there were any violations of these provisions being committed by the contractor so that on the basis of the reports of the 3 ombudsmen this Court could give further directions in the matter if found necessary.”

5. From the Asian Games of 1982 to the Commonwealth Games of 2010, India has indeed progressed manifold, but the condition of construction workers, particularly the contract/daily wage workers, seems to be have been totally neglected. They have not benefited from this progress and the existence of labour laws has not made any difference to their situation.

6. Several groups of concerned citizens have, over the last two years, persistently brought the above issues to the notice of state/central governments, e.g. Lt. Governor, Chief Minister, Ministry of Labour (GOI). Department of Labour (GNCT) Construction Workers Welfare Board in Delhi, Ministry of Sports (GoI), etc. - and all key agencies involved in the construction of projects (DDA, SAI, CPWD, DMRC, DIAL) and urged them to use the Commonwealth Games 2010 as an opportunity to undo the wrongs of Asiad 82.

7. The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, petitioners in the Asian Games case above quoted, on receiving reports of violation of workers rights at the Commonwealth Games construction sites, investigated the work conditions at one of the construction sites, the Commonwealth Games village near Akshardham temple, and published a report in April 2009. It was found that the provisions of The Building and other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Services) Act, 1996, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Services) Act, 1979, Contract Workers (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1970 are widely violated. The specific findings of the investigation are as follows:

i) That one worker died in an accident in December 2008 and the workers claim that there had been several deaths which are not recorded.

ii) That minimum wages were not paid to most of the workers.

iii) That double wages for overtime were not paid.

iv) That the wages were irregularly paid with considerable delays and the contractors often withheld a part of the wages.

v) That safety equipments were often not made available to workers.

vi) That identity cards were not given to the workers as required under law.

vii) That wage slips were not given to the workers in accordance with law. As a result the workers had no proof whatsoever that they were employed.

viii) That the provisions of the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996 were not being implemented in that the workers were not being registered with the Welfare Board.

ix) That many of the workers were living in over- crowded hovels, often without doors, without protection during winter, without electricity and without toilets.

x) That many of the camps where the workers were staying were not hygienically maintained and were full of mosquitoes.

xi) That in the camps water was stored in pvc tanks which were not cleaned.

xii) That the workers who came from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab were not given the benefits of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act and were totally at the mercy of the contractors.

xiii) That workers were never given a weekly off with wages as required by the Minimum Wages Act and are required to work on all 7 days of the week.

xiv) That women workers were paid less than their male counterparts.

xv) That only very primitive medical facilities were available to the workers.

xvi) That no representative of the Principal employers were present at the time of disbursement of wages as is required under the law.

8. The report also indicates that the officials of the respondents who were responsible for the implementation of the labour laws were not doing their duty at all and when attempts were made to contact them, to seek permission to visit the construction sites, they were evasive.

9. A similar study, covering 702 workers at 15 key project sites in Delhi (all high capacity sports facilities, the CW Games Village, a few metro sites and the international airport, among others), was initiated by the civil society coalition “Commonwealth Games – Citizens for Workers, Women & Children (CWG – CWC)”. The study which was published in October 2009 concluded:

“The violation of workers’ rights to minimum wage is widespread despite the ‘showcase’ nature of the CWG projects and despite the government being well aware of these violations. In majority of the sites workers are not paid even minimum wages let alone fair wages. The minimum wage for unskilled workers in Delhi is Rs 151 but the average wage earned by an unskilled worker in this sample is Rs 114…More than a third of the workers are not paid their wages on time…429 respondents reported that they are paid overtime at the normal hourly rate, while only 9 workers reported payment of overtime at the legally required higher rate...

Only 74 respondents from the total sample mentioned that attendance register is maintained. Only 168 respondents mentioned that they sign the wage register… The availability of amenities at the worksites is poor. Across sites on an average one toilet is available for 114 workers… At many locations, toilets are cleaned only on a weekly or monthly basis and not every day… Regarding compensation paid to the victim or victim’s kin after the accident, it appears that compensation as required by law is paid only in a few cases… This study reveals a significant gap between the safety ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ – that is, between the formal requirements and safety devices available at most (but not all) sites and the actual practices of following the safety requirements and using the safety tools and gadgets properly… This study reveals a significant gap between the safety ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ – that is, between the formal requirements and safety devices available at most (but not all) sites and the actual practices of following the safety requirements and using the safety tools and gadgets properly… …although safety boots are usually provided, the quality of the boots is often very poor… Most employers do not conduct health check-ups of the workers. Some of the workers complained they do not have any medical facility or proper response even in case of injury, let alone ailment. No workers are given holiday if they fall sick. Only 30 respondents stated that medical leave was granted… Most, nearly all, sites do not have any qualified doctor for treatment of the injured workers… Lack of water was one of the commonest complaints made by workers in this study. There is no bathroom facility for bathing in most of the sites… Considering the average for the labour camps / bastis associated with all sites,69 individuals use one toilet. At some of the sites toilets are not available or not sufficient, thereby forcing workers to defecate in the open… Hardly any of the workers have heard of the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Act, 1996 or The Delhi Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (DCWWB) and the benefits that they are supposed to get from the Board under the Act… Only 3 workers in the sample had heard of the Welfare Board. Nine had been registered under the Board but no worker had been renewing the registration regularly as required… The biggest concern of the workers, noted by 45 per cent workers, is about low wages and late payment of wages along with long hours of work… The next big problem, mentioned by 23 per cent respondents, is inadequate number of toilets or dirty toilets and lack of other facilities at the labour camps.”

10. A Public Hearing on construction workers’ issues was organized by CWG-CWC in Delhi on October 13, 2009, attended by 130 people. A total of 22 workers gave their testimony at this Hearing. The Public Hearing was conducted a Jury comprising:

i) Dr.Lakshmidhar Mishra, Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission

ii) Ms. Arundhati Ghose, Former Indian Ambassador to the United Nations

iii) Mr. Vinod Sharma, Chief of Political Bureau, Hindustan Times

iv) Ms. Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India

v) Mr. Vipin Benjamin, Advocate, Supreme Court

vi) Ms. Mohuya Choudhury, Senior Editor, NDTV”

11. Those representing the Administration at the Public Hearing included:

(i) Mr. Rakesh Mehta, Chief Secretary, GNCT Delhi

ii) Mr. Piyush Sharma, Joint Labour Commissioner, GNCT Delhi; Member Secretary Delhi

iii) Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (DBOCWWB)

iv) Mr. Rajender Dhar, Deputy Labour Commissioner, Central, GNCT Delhi

v) Ms. Rashmi Singh, Director, Mission Convergence, GNCT Delhi

vi) Ms. Debashree Mukherjee, Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development, GNCT, Delhi.

vii) Mr. B.S.Thakur, Deputy Director, Mission Convergence, GNCT Delhi”

12. The conclusions of the Public Hearing, as per its Report, were as follows:

“The Public Hearing has shown, once again, that there are gross violations of labour laws on many counts. With respect to the implementation of the 1996 Act, in particular, the proceedings have also identified the non-functioning of the Welfare Board, charged with that responsibility, as a major stumbling block.

The proceedings ended on a note of urgency sounded by the Jury, demanding that the issue of denial of basic entitlements to construction workers in Delhi be addressed immediately by various agencies and the report of the Hearing widely disseminated to ensure the same. The CWG-CWC Campaign expressed deep appreciation of workers, who had come from far and wide to share their experiences, in the hope that they will be heard, and their concerns addressed.

The Campaign members strongly recommend the following:

1. Re-visit the lack of autonomy of the Board and demand, through the structures in place, that a political decision at the highest level is taken to make the Board a fully functional, autonomous body as required by law to act as guardians of the welfare of the construction workers and of the Cess funds collected in their name.

2. Take cognizance of the violations of laws by all government agencies responsible for construction in the capital.

3. Municipal agencies address the deplorable conditions of water and sanitation in the bastis where construction workers reside.

Unless the above is addressed on an urgent basis, with the full commitment of the central and state governments, we will be violating the very spirit of the Commonwealth Games and threatening their very survival.

13. In accordance with the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, the Rules were notified in 2002, and the Construction Workers Welfare Board set up in Delhi. In accordance with the Building and the other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996, cess collection started in 2005 and picked up pace in 2007. From the cess collections, the Welfare Fund stands at Rs 300 crores today. The Welfare Board in Delhi is, however, dysfunctional – it has met, on an average, twice a year, as opposed to the requirement of meeting once in two months; it has no full time secretary to ensure functioning of any kind; most of the workers’ representatives on the Welfare Board have no track record of commitment to labour issues; it has no staff to scale up new registrations and renew old ones. The worker registration process launched in late 2005 has covered over 20,000 workers from among the estimated 6-8 lakh workers in the city (according to construction workers’ trade unions, NMPS and SEWA Delhi). Live registrations amount to approximately 10% of registered workers so far because of cumbersome procedures and the absence of publicity about benefits. To date, only Rs 15 lakh, or thereabouts, have been spent on providing concrete benefits to the workers.

CIVIL WRIT PETITION FILED IN PUBLIC INTEREST UNDER ARTICLE 226 OF THE CONSTITUTION FOR A WRIT OF MANDAMUS OR ANY OTHER APPROPRIATE WRIT, ORDER OR DIRECTION TO THE RESPONDENTS.

MOST RESPECTFULLY SHOWETH:

1. That the Present Writ Petition (Civil) is filed in Public Interest under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, relates to the deplorable conditions of the labourers at the many of the Commonwealth Games 2010 construction sites, who live in inhuman, undignified and unsafe conditions. which is a clear violation of fundamental rights to life, dignified life, livelihood, health and safety, seeking for a Writ of Mandamus or any other writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus, against the respondents.

2. That the Petitioner No.1, People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR),.came into existence in 1976-77 as the Delhi unit of a larger national forum PUCL-DR and became PUDR on 1 February, 1981. In the last two and a half decades of its existence, the organization has taken up hundreds of instances of violations of democratic rights, covering most parts of the country and involving the rights of many sections of society. PUDR conducts investigations, bring out reports, issues statements, organizes public meetings, and fights legal cases to highlight the violation of people’s rights, and to help towards their redress. PUDR also takes up issues of general importance that affect the rights of people through general campaigns, publications and legal interventions. The Petitioner No 1 is working for the rights of the labour and has conducted a survey of the Commonwealth Games 2010 sites regarding the condition of the labour and after investigating the exact position, prepared a report namely “In the Name of National Pride”

3. That the Petitioner No.2, Nirmaan Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam (NMPS), was constituted in 1989 at Delhi by the core team of the National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour (NCC-CL) to engage the construction workers of Delhi with the National Campaign of Construction Workers. NMPS has been preparing itself to ensure implementation of the 1996 Acts in their true spirit. NMPS has been organizing construction workers for the last 20 years in Bihar, Delhi, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. NMPS also supports the campaign to demand amendments in the Unorganized Sector Social Security Act, 2008 to make it comprehensive, so that similar Tripartite Boards and resources can be developed for the rest of the Unorganized Sector.

4. That the Petitioner No.3 is Common Cause, a registered Society with membership all over the country and operating on All India basis.It has earned its reputation and credibility as an organization dedicated to governance reform and to securing redress for problems of the people. Its initiatives in public interest litigation, both at the level of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, and this Hon’ble Court, for solving the common and collective problems of the people, have greatly contributed to the evolution of this instrument and its adoption by civil society for resolution of public grievances. The Petitioner No.3 is an active member of the civil society coalition “Commonwealth Games- Citizens for Workers, Women and Children”.

5. That the Respondent No.1 is Union of India, having overarching responsibility in respect of the conduct of the Commonwealth Games 2010 in Delhi and construction projects relating thereto, as well as overall control in respect of enforcement of labour laws in Union Territories, including NCT of Delhi.

6. That the Respondent No.2 is NCT of Delhi, which controls many of the construction projects relating to Commonwealth Games and is directly responsible for enforcement of labour laws and provision of welfare measures.

7. That the Respondent No.3 is Sports Authority of India which has the role of planning and coordination of the activities relating to the Commonwealth Games.

8. That the Respondent No.4 is Delhi Development Authority is the principal employer at many of the Commonwealth Games 2010 sites in Delhi.

9. That the Respondent No.5 is Director General of Inspection in the Ministry of Labour who is responsible for laying down the standard of inspection of construction workers throughout India and ensuring their compliance.

10. That the Respondent No.6 Central Public Works Department which is the principal construction agency, under GOI, at many of the Commonwealth Games 2010 sites in Delhi.

11. That the Respondent No.7 is New Delhi Municipal Corporation which is the principal employer at many of the Commonwealth Games 2010 sites in Delhi.

12. That the Respondent No.8 is Municipal Corporation of Delhi which is the principal employer at some of the Commonwealth Games 2010 sites in Delhi.

13. That the Respondent No.9 is Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board which is responsible for the welfare of the construction workers and matters relating to the registration of workers and collection of Cess levied for this purpose.

14. That the Respondent No.10 is Delhi International Airport Limited which is executing the work of upgradation of Delhi Airport in preparation for the Commonwealth Games.

15. That the Respondent No.11 is Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. which is executing the work of expansion of the Metro Network in preparation for the Commonwealth Games.

16. That the Respondent No.12 is Chief Inspector of Inspection of Building and Construction of Delhi is responsible for carrying out the provisions of Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 in relation to NCT of Delhi FACTS

17. For the 18th Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in Delhi in October 2010, over Rs. 17,400 crores (Rs 7000 crores for sports facilities and related infrastructure like roads, flyovers and parking lots; Rs 5,400 for the renovated international airport in Delhi, Rs 5000 crores for phase II of the metro expansion by 2010) has been provided by the Union of India and the Delhi Government for improving city infrastructure and sports facilities. Construction projects have been assigned to respondents, no. 2, 3, 4, 11 and 12, given to agencies such as respondents no. 6 and 7, who, in turn, have contracted work out to real estate developers and construction companies for the execution of the projects. At its peak, over mid-2008 to mid-2009, all projects would have employed a total of over 1 lakh workers. Today, at least 15,000 contract/daily wageworkers are working on these projects. This petition relates to the manner in which these workers are treated in contravention of law.

18. That it is stated at the outset that the petitioners do not wish to slow down or adversely affect in any way the progress of the projects. At the same time the petitioners believe that the nonimplementation of the labour laws is unacceptable even in the context of a time bound programme. Petitioners believe it is very possible for the projects to be completed on time while at the same time ensure that the workers labour rights are not violated. Unfortunately, the respondents aforementioned as well as their numerous contractors and executing agencies have got used of the idea that they can treat the workers sometimes as sub-humans and not be held accountable. This petition has been filed to correct that impression and to bring much needed relief to very poor workers.

19. That in 1982 in the case of Peoples Union for Democratic Rights vs. Union of India (1982 3 SCC 235) the Supreme Court intervened to bring relief to the workmen in the various projects connected with the Asiad Games. It was alleged that workers were not paid the minimum wage. By order dated 11.5.82 the Supreme Court directed that at least the minimum wages be paid. Since there were disputes over facts, the Court:

“appointed 3 ombudsmen and requested them to make periodical inspections of the sites of the construction work for the purpose of ascertaining whether the provisions of these labour laws were being carried out and the workers were receiving the benefits and amenities provided for them under these beneficent statutes or whether there were any violations of these provisions being committed by the contractor so that on the basis of the reports of the 3 ombudsmen this Court could give further directions in the matter if found necessary.”

20. It is pertinent to mention here that from the Asian Games of 1982 to the Commonwealth Games of 2010, India has indeed progressed manifold, but the condition of the workers, particularly the contract workers of India, has been totally neglected and they have not benefited from this progress and the existence of labour laws at all.

21. Several groups of concerned citizens have, over the last two years, persistently brought the above issues to the notice of state/central governments, e.g., Lt. Governor, Chief Minister, Ministry of Labour (GOI). Department of Labour (GNCT) Construction Workers Welfare Board in Delhi, Ministry of Sports (GoI), etc. - and all key agencies involved in the construction of projects (DDA, SAI, CPWD, DMRC, DIAL) and urged them to use CWG 2010 as an opportunity to undo the wrongs of Asiad 82.

22. That the violation of worker rights to minimum wage is widespread despite the showcase of the CWC projects and despite the government being well aware of these violations but nothing has been done in this regard by the government authorities.

23. In accordance with the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, the Rules were notified in 2002, and the Construction Workers Welfare Board set up in Delhi. In accordance with the Building and the other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996, cess collection started in 2005 and picked up pace in 2007. From the cess collections, the Welfare Fund stands at Rs 300 crores today.

The Welfare Board in Delhi is, however, dysfunctional – it has met, on an average, twice a year, as opposed to the requirement of meeting once in two months; it has no full time secretary to ensure functioning of any kind; most of the workers’ representatives on the Welfare Board have no track record of commitment to labour issues; it has no staff to scale up new registrations and renew old ones. The worker registration process launched in late 2005 has covered over 20,000 workers from among the estimated 6-8 lakh workers in the city (according to construction workers’ trade unions, NMPS and SEWA Delhi). Live registrations amount to approximately 10% of registered workers so far because of cumbersome procedures and the absence of publicity about benefits. To date, only Rs 15 lakh, or thereabouts, have been spent on providing concrete benefits to the workers.

24. That the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, petitioners in the Asian Games case above quoted, on receiving reports of violation of workers’ rights at the Commonwealth Games construction sites, investigated the work conditions at one of the construction sites, the Commonwealth Games village, near Akshardham temple and published a report in April 2009. It was found that the provisions of The Building and other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Services) Act, 1996, Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Services) Act, 1979, Contract Workers (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1970 are widely violated. The specific finding of the investigation

i) That one worker had died in an accident in December 2008 and the workers claim that there had been several deaths which are not recorded.

ii) That minimum wages were not paid to most of the workers.

iii) That double wages for overtime were not paid.

iv) That the wages were irregularly paid with considerable delays and with contractor’s often withholding part of the wages.

v) That safety equipment were often not made available to workers.

vi) That identity card was not given to the workers as required under law.

vii) That wage slips were not given to the workers in accordance with law. As a result the workers had no proofs whatsoever that they were employed.

viii) That many of the workers were living in rooms, often without doors, without protection during winter, without electricity and without toilets.

ix) That many of the camps where the workers were staying were not hygienically maintained and full of mosquitoes.

x) That in the camps water was stored in pvc tanks which were not cleaned.

xi) That the workers who came from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab were not given the benefits of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act and were totally at the mercy of the contractors..

xii) That workers are never given a weekly off with wages as required by the Minimum Wages Act and are required to work on all 7 days.

xiii) That the women workers are paid less than their male counterparts.

xiv) That very primitive medical facility is available for the workers.

xv) That no representative of the Principal employer is present at the time of disbursement of wages as is required under the law.

xvi) That no representative of the Principal employer is present at the time of disbursement of wages as is required under the law.

25. The report also indicates that the officials of the respondents who are responsible for the implementation of the labour laws are not doing their duty at all and when attempts were made to contact them, to seek permission to visit the construction site, they were evasive.

26. A similar study , covering 702 workers at 15 key project sites in Delhi (all high capacity sports facilities, the CW Games Village, a few metro sites and the international airport, among others), was initiated by the “Commonwealth Games – Citizens for Workers, Women & Children (CWG – CWC), published in October 2009, which concluded:

“The violation of workers’ rights to minimum wage is widespread despite the ‘showcase’ nature of the CWG projects and despite the government being well aware of these violations. In majority of the sites workers are not paid even minimum wages let alone fair wages. The minimum wage for unskilled workers in Delhi is Rs 151 but the average wage earned by an unskilled worker in this sample is Rs 114…More than a third of the workers are not paid their wages on time…429 respondents reported that they are paid overtime at the normal hourly rate, while only 9 workers reported payment of overtime at the legally required higher rate... Only 74 respondents from the total sample mentioned that attendance register is maintained. Only 168 respondents mentioned that they sign the wage register… The availability of amenities at the worksites is poor. Across sites on an average one toilet is available for 114 workers… At many locations, toilets are cleaned only on a weekly or monthly basis and not every day… Regarding compensation paid to the victim or victim’s kin after the accident, it appears that compensation as required by law is paid only in a few cases… This study reveals a significant gap between the safety ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ – that is, between the formal requirements and safety devices available at most (but not all) sites and the actual practices of following the safety requirements and using the safety tools and gadgets properly……although safety boots are usually provided, the quality of the boots is often very poor… Most employers do not conduct health check-ups of the workers. Some of the workers complained they do not have any medical facility or proper response even in case of injury, let alone ailment. No workers are given holiday if they fall sick. Only 30 respondents stated that medical leave was granted… Most, nearly all, sites do not have any qualified doctor for treatment of the injured workers… Lack of water was one of the commonest complaints made by workers in this study. There is no bathroom facility for bathing in most of the sites… Considering the average for the labour camps / bastis associated with all sites,69 individuals use one toilet. At some of the sites toilets are not available or not sufficient, thereby forcing workers to defecate in the open… Hardly any of the workers have heard of the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Act, 1996 or The Delhi Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (DCWWB) and the benefits that they are supposed to get from the Board under the Act… Only 3 workers in the sample had heard of the Welfare Board. Nine had been registered under the Board but no worker had been renewing the registration regularly as required… The biggest concern of the workers, noted by 45 per cent workers, is about low wages and late payment of wages along with long hours of work… The next big problem, mentioned by 23 per cent respondents, is inadequate number of toilets or dirty toilets and lack of other facilities at the labour camps.”

27. A Public Hearing on the situation of construction workers was conducted at Delhi in October 2009. The Public Hearing was conducted by the Jury comprising:

xvii) Dr.Lakshmidhar Mishra, Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission

xviii) Ms. Arundhati Ghose, Former Indian Ambassador to the United Nations

xix) Mr. Vinod Sharma, Chief of Political Bureau, Hindustan Times

xx) Ms. Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India

xxi) Mr. Vipin Benjamin, Advocate, Supreme Court

xxii) Ms. Mohuya Choudhury, Senior Editor, NDTV”

28. Those representing the Administration included:

(i) Mr. Rakesh Mehta, Chief Secretary, GNCT Delhi

ii) Mr. Piyush Sharma, Joint Labour Commissioner, GNCT Delhi; Member Secretary Delhi

iii) Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (DBOCWWB)

iv) Mr. Rajender Dhar, Deputy Labour Commissioner, Central, GNCT Delhi

v) Ms. Rashmi Singh, Director, Mission Convergence, GNCT Delhi

vi) Ms. Debashree Mukherjee, Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development, GNCT, Delhi.

vii) Mr. B.S.Thakur, Deputy Director, Mission Convergence, GNCT Delhi”

29. The conclusions of the Public Hearing as per its Report were as follows: “The Public Hearing has shown, once again, that there are gross violations of labour laws on many counts. With respect to the implementation of the 1996 Act, in particular, the proceedings have also identified the non-functioning of the Welfare Board, charged with that responsibility, as a major stumbling block.

The proceedings ended on a note of urgency sounded by the Jury, demanding that the issue of denial of basic entitlements to construction workers in Delhi be addressed immediately by various agencies and the report of the Hearing widely disseminated to ensure the same. The CWG-CWC Campaign expressed deep appreciation of workers, who had come from far and wide to share their experiences, in the hope that they will be heard, and their concerns addressed.

The Campaign members strongly recommend the following:

1. Re-visit the lack of autonomy of the Board and demand, through the structures in place, that a political decision at the highest level is taken to make the Board a fully functional, autonomous body as required by law to act as guardians of the welfare of the construction workers and of the Cess funds collected in their name.

2. Take cognizance of the violations of laws by all government agencies responsible for construction in the capital.

3. Municipal agencies address the deplorable conditions of water and sanitation in the bastis where construction workers reside.

Unless the above is addressed on an urgent basis, with the full commitment of the central and state governments, we will be violating the very spirit of the Commonwealth Games and threatening their very survival.

The mass of evidence compiled in these documents brings out in sharp relief the plight of the construction workers employed in CWG projects and constitutes sufficient ground for the intervention of this Hon’ble Court.

GROUNDS:

A. Because there is a clear violation of Labour laws by the employers at various Commonwealth 2010 sites.

B. Because many workers have died or been injured in accidents at work sites due to neglect of safety norms and their deaths were not even reported and no compensation was paid as prescribed.

C. Because the mandatory requirements of constitution of joint safety committees and formulation of policies in respect of safety and health of building workers are not being complied with.

D. Because the provisions of the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, are not being implemented and the benefits envisaged in the said Act are not accruing to the workers.

E. Because the minimum wages and the double wages for overtime were not paid to most of the workers.

F. Because the wages are irregularly paid with considerable delays and with contractors often withholding part of the wages.

G. Because the requisite safety equipments are generally not made available to workers.

H. Because identity cards are not given to the workers as required under law.

I. Because the wage slips are not given to the workers in accordance with law. As a result, the workers have no proof whatsoever that they are employed.

J. Because the workers are not given a weekly off with wages as required by the Minimum Wages Act and are required to work on all 7 days in violation of labour laws.

K. Because there is discrimination against women workers who are paid less than their male counterparts for the same amount of work.

L. That the Petitioners have not filed any other petition seeking the same reliefs as prayed for herein against the respondents herein before this Hon‘ble Court or before any other Court in the country.

PRAYER

a) Pass a writ of mandamus or any other writ order or direction setting up an Independent Commission of this Court to visit the various sites where construction work is going on in connection with the Commonwealth Games, interview the workers and make a report with respect to the grievances set out in this petition.

b) Pass an order permitting the above Commission to co-opt such . . NGOs, experts and others as they deem fit.

c) Pass an order directing the respondents to ensure compliance of the provisions of the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and the rules made thereunder relating to health and safety of construction workers are duly complied with.

d) Pass an order directing the respondents to ensure that all construction workers employed in connection with the Commonwealth Games 2010 are registered with the Welfare Board constituted under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, within two weeks from today, are provided with appropriate documentation as required under the Act and are given due benefits with retrospective effect from the dates of starting work.

e) Pass an order directing the respondents to ensure that all the workmen employed in connection with the Commonwealth Games are given identity cards, insurance cover under Jan Shree Bima Yojna,/ Rashtriya Swathya Bima Yojna, Wage slips, at least the minimum wage, double wages for overtime, a paid weekly off, proper medical facilities, workmen’s compensation in all cases of accidents, clean drinking water and toilet facilities.

f) Pass an order directing the respondents to ensure that the quarters where the workers are staying are properly designed and maintained and have secure doors, electricity supply, adequate number of toilets which are cleaned daily, and hygienic surroundings. g) Pass such other order or orders as this Hon‘ble Court may deem fit in the facts and circumstances of the case.


CONSTITUTION OF MONITORING COMMITTEE

CORAM: HON’BLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE, HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE RAJIV SAHAI ENDLAW O R D E R

03.02.2010

This petition filed in public interest draws attention of the court to the plight of construction workers and seeks directions for compliance of the provisions of The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and the Rules framed thereunder. It is inter alia pleaded that minimum wages are not being paid to most of the workers; the wages are paid irregularly after considerable delays; safety equipment and identity cards and wage slips are not being made available to the workers and no provisions for residence of the workers and their family members, as required to be made are being made. It is further pleaded that though the welfare fund set up in accordance with The Building and Other Construction Workers? Welfare Cess Act, 1996 stands at Rs.300 crores but the Welfare Board in Delhi is dysfunctional and has not been meeting regularly and has not shown any track record of commitment to labour issues; only Rs.15 lacs or thereabouts out of the sum aforementioned of Rs.300 crores have been spent for the benefit of the workers. The pleadings aforesaid show a grave state of affairs, and if the same are true, amounts to a total apathy towards the construction workers who form a large migrant community, inspite of law for their benefit having been enacted. The counsels appearing for some of the agencies have contended that they are unable to do the needful owing to the said workers having no permanent address. The Senior counsel for the petitioners contends that the said problem can be resolved by issuance of identity cards in accordance with the Act. There is a controversy as to whether identity cards have been issued or not. It is informed by the counsel for the Govt. of NCT of Delhi that about 17,000/- identity cards have been issued. The Act aforesaid was promulgated recognizing that the said workers belong to one of the most vulnerable segments of unorganized labour in India and are characterized by the inherent risk to life and limb; their work is casual in character and there is only a temporary relationship of employer and employee and that too with uncertain work hours, lack of basic amenities and inadequacy of welfare facilities. The Act in Section 7 thereof provides for registration of establishments employing building workers in any building or other construction work as well as in Section 12 for Registration of Building Workers. Section 18 provides for constitution of Welfare Board and Section 13 provides for issuance of identity cards to every worker. In the facts of the case we feel the need for constitution of four member committee and which is agreed to by the counsel for the Govt. of NCT of Delhi also with the Secretary (Labour), Commissioner (Labour) as its members. On the suggestions of the counsels, we also appoint Ms. Arundhati Ghose, Former Indian Ambassador to the United Nations and Dr. Lakshmidhar Mishra, Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission, who are informed to have consented to be the members of the said Monitoring Committee as members thereof. The said Committee shall hold its first meeting on 8th February, 2010 and take appropriate steps to redress the grievance of the construction workers in Delhi and for implementation of provisions of the Act. We also direct the Welfare Board constituted under the provisions of the Act to hold extra/special meetings and to comply with the various provisions of the Act/Rules and ensure issuance of identity cards to all the construction workers. The Board shall abide by the directions issued by the Monitoring Committee constituted by this court. The Monitoring Committee to ensure that the prayers ?C?, ?D?, ?E? and ?F? of the writ petition are complied with. List this matter now on 17th March, 2010. The Monitoring Committee constituted by us to submit a report by that date. CHIEF JUSTICE RAJIV SAHAI ENDLAW, J FEBRUARY 03, 2010 pp 36.

Report of the Monitoring Committee

SUMMARY

The Mandate

On 3rd February 2010, the Honble High Court of Delhi, in considering a public interest petition filed by PUDR and two others relating to working conditions of construction workers in Delhi, primarily those at sites where construction was being carried out for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, set up a Monitoring Committee with the following composition:

Shri R.D.Srivastva, Labour Secretary,Government of Delhi

Shri A.K.Singh, Labour Commissioner, Government of Delhi

Ms Arundhati Ghose, former Indian Ambassador to the UN

Shri Lakshmidhar Mishra, Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission

The mandate of the Monitoring Committee was as follows:

“The said Committee shall hold its first meeting on 8th February 2010 and take appropriate steps to redress the grievance of the construction workers in Delhi and for the implementation of provisions of the Act. We also direct the Welfare Board constituted under provisions of the Act to hold extra/special meetings and to comply with the provisions of the Act/Rules and ensure issuance of identity cards to all the construction workers. The Board shall abide by the directions issued by the Monitoring Committee constituted by this court.

The Monitoring Committee to ensure that the prayers ‘C’ ‘D’ ‘E’ ‘F’ of the writ petition are complied with.”

The Monitoring Committee was unable to fully implement the mandate handed down to it by the Court, mainly due to the paucity of time and the fact that many of the Commonwealth Games projects had already been completed. The Monitoring Committee interpreted its mandate as one which would assist the Court to verify the allegations/claims in the petition, particularly those relating to safety (‘C’), benefits of the Building and Other Construction Workers Act not accruing to the workers (‘D’), discrepancies in payment of minimum wages, including overtime wages (‘E’ and ‘F’) of the petition. The four areas on which the Monitoring Committee focused were : (i) Wages (ii) Safety issues (iii) Living conditions and (iv) registration of workers under the Act.

Visits were, therefore, restricted to only some of the Commonwealth Games sites, selected on the basis of inputs from both the petitioners and respondents, representing a fair cross-section of sites managed by different entities as Principal Employer/Main Contractor. The Monitoring Committee has concluded that, by and large, the allegations made by the petitioners are well-founded.

Meetings

As directed by the High Court, the Monitoring Committee met on the 8th February 2010 and on five other subsequent occasions. Site visits were made in the intervening periods. Since the High Court had not nominated any Chairman nor made any provision for logistical support of the Committee, the Committee itself decided that Shri R.D. Srivastva, Labour Secretary, Government of Delhi, would be the Convenor of the Committee and accepted with gratitude the logistical and other assistance of the office of the Labour Commissioner, Government of Delhi and stenographic assistance of the National Commission of Human Rights.

The following major decisions were taken by the Committee:

i. It was decided to co-opt the Chief Labour Commissioner, Government of India into the Committee

ii. The petitioners were invited to participate in the meetings and in the visits. Some acted as volunteers during the site visits. This assistance was welcomed.

iii. Interaction with representatives of Principal employers, with main contractors and workers, where available, were to be carried out on the four issues identified

iv. Separate interaction with respondents

v. An Advisory note was issued to the Welfare Board.

Visits and findings

The main report contains details regarding each site visited by the Committee together with the findings of the Committee. Most of the workers were found to be migrants from UP, MP, West Bengal, Jharkand, Rajasthan Bihar and Orissa. In summary, Wages: (pgs 63-74)

It was difficult to confirm that minimum wages were being paid to all workers. Muster rolls were examined at some sites but they could not be verified.

Almost all main contractors use the service of labour contractors, often without verifying their antecedents (licenses). The labour contractors or ‘thekedars’ recruit the workers from villages where they have some connection-in the case of migrant workers- and have informal arrangements with the workers. The main contractor pays the ‘thekedar’ by cheque; in turn, he disburses cash to the workers, reportedly in the presence of the principal employer. This system is obviously open to abuse. The majority of employers did not seem aware of the Inter State Migrant Workers Act, thereby making the plight of workers even more vulnerable. (also pgs 83-85)

In many cases workers were not receiving overtime and in some cases no paid days off.

Workers were employed on daily wage basis and received payment only for the days they actually worked. At no site were wage slips found to be issued.

Health and Safety (pgs 74-78)

While most sites visited issued basic safety gear, it was common to observe that workers were not using boots or gloves. There were reports of accidents at almost every site, but not could be verified. While most have ssfety officers, safety training is not common and supervision even rarer. In some cases, the employers were cutting the costs of the gear from the wages, though this was not common.

Health facilities such as first aid centres were rare. Usually a first aid box was all that was available. In all cases however, arrangements had been made with a local clinic/nursing home/ hospital for major injuries. At some sites, full fledged clinics were observed at the site, though not at the workers camps.

Living conditions (pgs 75-80)

Except in the case of the site at the Airport under DIAL/Larsen and Toubro, the living accommodation was basic, number of toilets too few for the number of workers, the use of CI sheets for the hutments making these barracks impossible in Delhi weather and frequently, the lack of overall hygiene and cleanliness was deplorable. Apart from being in violation of existing laws protecting workers and the violation of basic human rights, the provision of such sub-standard accommodation is bound to lower the productivity of the workers.

Implementation of the Building and other Construction Workers Act

Knowledge of the provisions of the Act and the benefits of registration to the workers was either not well known or not implemented by the employers. Only a very few workers at the sites visited had been registered.

Other general observations

There are obvious lapses on the part of regulators in monitoring compliance with the provision of various laws/rules.

There appears to be a distinct bias against the employment of women and provision of suitable amenities for them when accompanying their husbands. Only one crèche was found operating at the Games village.

Much of the problem regarding accommodation arises from the non-availability of land to build proper camps. MCD and PWD projects frequently use the roadside for workers accommodation.

There are far too many labour laws which make both implementation and regulation difficult (pgs 86-90)

The Committee was made aware of the numerous communications by the petitioners and other NGOs working in the field, which received either incomplete or no response. Recommendations

The Honb’le High Court may wish to

i. Direct all principal employers/main contractors, whether of projects for the Commonwealth Games or other, to immediately take steps to ensure that minimum wages are actually paid to the workers, to be confirmed and reported on action taken, by the regulatory body concernedthe Chief Labour Commisioner/Labour Commisioner Delhi. Unpaid wages should be immediately disbursed directly to the workers.

ii. Direct the regulators, the Chief Labour Commisioner/Labour Commisioner, Delhi to monitor steps taken to ensure that all safety measure stipulated by law are implemented and report to the Court on action taken, on a regular basis.

iii. Direct all principal employers/main contractors to ensure basic clean and hygienic living conditions for all workers

iv. Direct the Welfare Board to start a time-bound programme for registration of all construction workers, preceded, if necessary by a wide ranging and easily understandable publicity campaign amongst the workers, and process the requests for assistance on an urgent basis.

Longer term issues, as brought out in the Report need to be studied and addressed urgently, such as re-examination of recruitment procedures by changing the ‘thekedar’ system, allotment of land for accommodation of workers at the same time as land is allotted for a project, recruitment of and provision of amenities for, women, including crèches for infants, and above all, responsiveness to and collaboration with concerned civil society organizations on all these issues by the authorities both at the State and Central Government level.

April - June, 2010