Commonwealth Games Has Devastating Hidden Cost

When the Commonwealth Games committee awarded India the privilege of hosting the next games, in October 2010, did they stop to even consider the cost?

In February IPS reported "If medals are being given out for backbreaking labour on miserable wages and impossible working conditions, thousands of migrant workers, slaving to complete stadium and other facilities for the October Commonwealth Games in the Indian capital, will be the champions."

The majority of the estimated 17,000 employees working on games sites are migrants from India's poorest states, who have moved into the city in search of work. It is understood the workers are living in highly dangerous and shocking conditions. They receive less than the stipulated wage and have no access to even the most basic sanitation and health facilities. Their employers do not provide them with the necessary safety equipment.

In gross violation of labour laws, around 2000 boys aged between 14 and 16 are working on the game sites. Authorities say it is not possible to keep the children away from the work sites.

Attracted by the prospect of work, created by such mega projects, millions of people have been pouring into the city from the poverty stricken rural hinterland, only to be abused by grasping contractors. They have cushy arrangements with the cities authorities, according to Dunu Roy, director of the non-government organization Hazard Centre. "At least the Chinese had in place a welfare system. Here there is nothing, not even basic registration of workers, so that they are left to the mercy of contractors interested solely in maximizing their profits.'

Lakshmi, a woman worker from neighbouring Rajasthan state, took a slight pause from moving bricks piled on her head, to say that she gets paid about half the promised amount of 200 rupees (4.29 U.S. dollars) per day. "My husband is paid slightly more, but we do not protest because there is no work in the fields back home," she said as a minder shooed her back to work.

Lakshmi's two-year-old daughter remains with her at the work site, happily playing amid concrete mixers, compressors and cranes, since the contractors make no provision for the worker's children. After a hard day's work, Lakshmi returns ‘home’ to a one-room tin shack to prepare a meal over a smoky, open fire. She uses scraps of whatever combustible material she can scrounge.

In its report PUDR said "Workers reported that 70 to 200 labourers have died at this site [main venue] due to work-related mishaps. Union representatives, however, said that there have been about 20 fatal accidents, a much lower number but nevertheless an alarming one."

The court was told, "Many deaths are occurring but go unrecorded." The 'Indian Express' daily reported on Mar. 9, 2009, that workers at the main Games venue had been unpaid since December 2008 and that payments were erratic. The responsibility was being laid on subcontractors.

"It is estimated the city will have around three million homeless people as a result of the games", the news magazine Outlook reported recently. The hidden cost of the Indian games will go down in history as the worst ever.

About Commonwealth Games Has Devastating Hidden Cost
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