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CITU Writes to Labour Ministry Over Central Vista Project: ‘Ensure Strict Adherence to Centre’s Claims’

Ronak Chhabra |
While workers at the construction site are being made to live in a cramped space, those employed by one sub-contractor namely, Garg Builders, have alleged non-payment of wages since March, a recent investigative report has revealed.
CITU Writes to Labour Ministry Over Central Vista Project: ‘Ensure Strict Adherence to Centre’s Claims’

Image Courtesy: The Indian Express

The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) on Thursday (June 3) wrote to the Union Labour Ministry seeking its intervention in the “gross violation” of labour rights and that of “basic tenets” of the Disaster Management Act in the ongoing construction work to redevelop the Central Vista in the national capital.

“… the Central Govt claimed to ensure sanitisation, thermal screening, arrangement for isolation, testing arrangement, medical aid for the workers and above all, arrangement of health insurance for all the construction workers [is] to be provided by the contractors, [but media] reports say that practically most of these are not in place,” the central trade union said in a letter addressed to Santosh Singh Gangwar, Minister of State with independent charge in the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

The trade union was referring to an investigation carried out by Scroll earlier last month, in which it was reported that three workers engaged in the Central Vista Project were infected with COVID-19. Other workers at the site complained of delayed wages and substandard living conditions on the work site, according to the report.

The Central Vista Redevelopment Project entails construction activities on Rajpath in New Delhi and the surrounding lawns from the India Gate to the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Rs 20,000 crore project envisages building a new Parliament House, a new residential complex to house offices and the Prime Minister and the Vice President. It will also have new office buildings and a Central Secretariat to accommodate various ministers’ offices.

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Earlier this week, a plea was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court’s May 31 verdict which dismissed a petition seeking to suspend all construction activity of the Central Vista project during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Narendra Modi – led central government had told the Delhi High Court that workers are staying at the site in accordance with the official guidelines regarding COVID-19, and that the entire workforce is medically insured by the contractor.

The media reports, however, have a different tale to tell. According to the Scroll investigation, while workers are being made to live in a cramped space, those employed by one sub-contractor namely, Garg Builders, also reported of non-payment of wages since March.

Central Public Works Department (CPWD), the project developer, has contracted the work to Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Private Limited, which has further awarded the sub-contracts to other construction companies.

CITU on Thursday asked the Labour Ministry to enquire from the CPWD, “the Principal Employer”, and through its inspection-cum-facilitation machinery, “whether the contractors are fulfilling their basic statutory obligations” or not. It further demanded the union ministry to “ensure strict adherence” to claims made by the central government in the court at the work site.  

Anurag Saxena, general secretary of CITU – Delhi, told NewsClick on Friday that attempts will be made by the state unit of the union as well to independently verify the conditions of the workers engaged in the Central Vista project.

“In the coming days, we will also verify whether the construction workers are registered with the Delhi welfare board. If not, then we will initiate a registration drive,” Saxena said.

Every state has a Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, a statutory body, that is tasked with ensuring welfare of the construction workforce. As per the law, the employer, barring exceptions, is required to pay a welfare cess that is not less than 1% of the construction cost of a project.

Active membership of a construction worker with the welfare board is the prerequisite to claim the benefits mandated by the latter. The benefits for a registered worker with the board include medical assistance and paid maternity leaves, among others.

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