A clash between police and construction workers at the Eros Group’s Five Star Hotel and Shopping Plaza construction site in Mayur Vihar police station area on 14 April 2010 was reported in the press. Given that PUDR is the petitioner in the ongoing case in the Delhi High Court on CWG construction workers, a fact-finding team visited the Eros Construction site on 16 April 2010.
The team met the construction workers, representatives of the contractor and of the Eros group, and the police at the Mayur Vihar police station. Following are the findings of the team:
- The construction at the site started around three years ago. M/s Chawla Techno Construct Ltd. is the principal contractor for the main building structure which is nearly complete. According to the contractor, less than a hundred workers are employed by them. The rest are employed by Eros Resorts Hotels Ltd. According to the workers there are around 2,000 workers currently working at the site.
- Most of the workers currently employed are from West Bengal, Bihar and the Bundelkhand region in UP and MP. They are employed through 13 labour contractors (jamadars).
- The workers reside close to the construction site in a slum created with corrugated metal sheets. The living conditions in these makeshift jhuggis is abysmal, especially with the temperatures rising each day.
- The workers are promised a wage of Rs. 199 since the beginning of the new financial year. However, they have not received their wage payments a period varying from one to three months. During this period they are paid a survival allowance of Rs. 300 every eight days.
- Agitated over this non-payment, workers gave an ultimatum to the Eros management that their balance wages be settled forthwith, failing which they shall proceed on strike on 14 April 2010.
- Early in the morning of 14 April, workers collected outside the gate of the construction site and refused to go for work. They expected the top management of the Eros Group to intervene and ensure their payments. The Eros management at the construction site immediately called in the police claiming a law and order problem.
- Over a hundred police personnel from nearby police stations including the SHO of Mayur Vihar police station arrived at the site. The police started to disperse the gathered workers using batons without warning or any instigation. Once a number of workers had been hit, others ran for safety and also threw stones at the police party. Police claimed that four policemen suffered minor injuries.
- Since this police action, police personnel have been intimidating workers and have been searching for the labour contractors. The team was informed that one labour contractor has been picked up by the police this morning, some others were picked up a day ago. Police refused to confirm or deny the detention/arrest. Newspapers have reported that four workers were arrested. There is an atmosphere of terror among the workers.
- The wages due to the workers have not been paid to date.
- The facts noted above once again confirm the myriad ways in which workers rights are being violated at the sites of construction of amenities for the sportsmen and tourists for the Commonwealth Games scheduled later this year.
It is shameful the way in which the construction site managements are succeeding in denying wages and proper living conditions and are using the police to browbeat workers. It is also shameful that despite media reporting of the incident, labour officials have still not intervened to ensure wage payment and proper living conditions.
In the light of the above, PUDR demands,
- That the back wages be paid to the workers without delay.
- That proper housing be created for the workers employed.
- That the case registered against the workers for assaulting the police be withdrawn since workers were forced to defend themselves against illegal police action.
- That the ALC/DLC be suspended forthwith for dereliction of duty and proceedings be initiated against them.
Moushumi Basu and Asish Gupta
Contact: Budhaditya Das: 9818211578 Harish Dhawan: 9811667776