Tag Archive | Eateries

Crying Foul Over Violations, Secrecy In Games ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                                 October 01, 2010
Crying Foul Over Violations, Secrecy In Games !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India

women work2

Women At Work For No Pay ?
(Photo: nocwg2010)

New Delhi (UNI) – Violations of law that hit thousands of workers and drove thousands out of homes as New Delhi readied for Commonwealth games have yet to be remedied, activists say.

”Commonwealth Games hai! hai!”– cries of woe– rent the air as members of an Anti Commonwealth Games Front took to the streets on Friday, barely days before the event.

Such ”gross violations of human rights against Delhi’s poor and marginalised groups” called for a boycott of the 71-nation event on ethical grounds, a meeting at Jantar Mantar was told.

The protest coincided with the arrival of the ‘Queen’s Baton’ they dubbed ”a historical symbol of oppression and colonisation.”

They spoke of 200,000 now homeless and 300,000 without livelihood, not to mention labour law violations at CWG sites, beggars shipped out or young women trafficked in from States for sex work.

”In the run-up to the Commonwealth Games,” the Front, a coalition of 25 groups, said, ”the city has seen the most blatant violation of human rights of the urban poor.”

Many vendors, cart-pullers, waste-pickers, head-loaders, balloon sellers, cobblers, food stalls and eateries have simply been put out of work, it said in a statement.

The groups included Peoples’ Union for Democratic Rights, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Housing and Land Rights Network, Indo German Social Service Society, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and Beghar Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti.

”The government has completely lost its sense of priorities,” it said, citing Rs 70,000-100,000 crore– US$ 15-21 billion– spent on hosting the 12-day extravaganza.

They compared it, for instance, to Rs 11,270 crore allocated for housing projects for economically weaker citizens under Indira Awas Yojna 2010-11 and Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana 2010-2011.

They said CWG decisions– from bidding for the event to reserving lanes for participants or a somersault on turning the village into a student hostel– were ”taken in secrecy,” against democratic norms.

English: CWG Opening Ceremony 2010

CWG 2010 Opening Ceremony (Photo: Wikipedia)

While CWG construction workers ought to have been paid wages in keeping with the international stature of the event, a spokesman for a signatory group said most were deprived of minimum wages even by Indian standards.

Workers at CWG construction sites have experienced some of the most widespread violation of human rights, spokesman Subhash Bhatnagar for Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam said.

Unskilled workers in Delhi are entitled to a minimum daily wage of Rs 203 but got only Rs 110-130, volunteers said.

Experts say laws provide for paltry fines at the end of litigation– itself slow– not jail terms which can deter violations.

According to PUDR, the State agencies flouting labour laws as principal employers in CWG-related construction range from Delhi Development Authority to Delhi University.

Calling CWG one of India’s biggest corruption scandals, the groups said instead of accounting for the financial irregularities, the government ”is focusing” on ”success of the Games under the garb of ‘national pride’.”

It questioned the idea of supporting ”a sporting event that is making a selected few richer.”

The protesters dismissed suggestions that hosting the CWG will improve India’s performance in sports as ”completely false.”

They said for many schools across India a playground was a distant dream for children and the plight of most athletes ”is dismal if not pathetic.”

A placard they held demanded ”schools, not stadiums.”

English: CWG Delhi 2010 OC Building

2010 CWG Organising Committee’s home (Photo: Wikipedia)

Noting that India has spent at least Rs 4,500 crore on renovating stadiums for the Games, it said ”this money could have been more wisely spent to improve facilities for sportspersons across the country.”

It said Delhi residents have been put through ”a lot of inconveniences” to host an event they were neither consulted about nor asked for– but ”will eventually pay for.”

Alluding to remarks made by Delhi Finance Minister A K Walia in March 2010, the groups said the Delhi Government has gone bankrupt because of ”wanton spending” in the name of the Games. ”The city has become much more expensive and taxes have increased.”

It demanded ”full accountability from all agencies and departments involved in the CWG, full public disclosure of funds, transparency of transactions, protection of human rights of Delhi’s citizens.”

It also demanded ”compensation for livelihoods lost, adequate rehabilitation of the displaced close to their places of work, a post-Games legacy plan and cost recovery plan, and prosecution of officials responsible for embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.”

UNI MJ NK 1950

India’s National Holidays Work For Employers ! – By Mukesh Jhangiani

                                                                                                                                       September 16, 2008

India’s National Holidays Work For Employers !

By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
New Delhi (UNI) – Thousands of Indians in the nation’s Capital spent the Independence Day holiday on job, earning twice the wages and a day off as compensation– at least in law.

English: Rashtrapati Bhavan Illuminated on Rep...

Republic Day celebration (Photo: Wikipedia)

But, four weeks later, authorities have no clue how many get to collect the due wages, and how many, if any, don’t.

”We take action against errant employers under the law,” Delhi’s Labour Commissioner K S Wahi said in a telephone interview, but acknowledged ”certain gaps in the laws which must be covered.”

On the Independence day, the Department’s 30-odd Shop Inspectors went around some 130 establishments in the city checking for violations. The count won’t be in until another few days.

Experts point out that such a small number does not even qualify as much of a sample considering hundreds of thousands of units operating in India’s National Capital Territory.

Employment in shops, hotels, restaurants and eateries, theatres or other public amusement or entertainment establishments is governed under the Delhi Shops and Establishments Act 1954.

Enacted to ”consolidate” laws to regulate work hours, pay, leave, holidays and so on, it is one of two dozen Acts on matters ranging from minimum wage to gratuity the Department enforces.

The Act is enforced through 30 plus Shop Inspectors in nine districts of Delhi who function directly under respective district Deputy or Assistant Labour Commissioner.
Experts say the ”gaps” alluded to may have to do with inadequacies in the law and enforcement which let law-breaking employers get away.

Take the ”exemption” proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi in September 2004 to let shops do business as usual on three days in a year lawmakers have declared National Holidays.

By law, Indians are entitled to take the day off on: January 26, the Republic Day, August 15, the Independence Day, and October 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary.

But thousands of shops and call centres across the NCT keep working through those days– some because they have to, others simply choose to.

What if an employee wishes to celebrate a National Holiday ? What steps are taken to ensure that employees are paid the prescribed wage and compensatory holiday ? How many employers have been prosecuted in the last three years ?

When these and related questions were addressed to Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna, his Principal Secretary R Chandramohan suggested these be put to the Labour Department.

Replying for the Department, K R Verma, Chief Inspector of Shops and Establishments, stated that an employee wishing to celebrate a national holiday must ”seek leave of absence from his employer”– in other words, no longer take it as a matter of right.

The issue is not holidays, it is labour law and enforcement.

How does a department with just 30 labour inspectors keep tabs on so many employers or millions of employees ?

Verma said ”the current thinking regarding securing compliance with laws is based upon the policy that most of the establishments comply with the law.”

The Department has not prosecuted any employer on this count or, indeed, under the entire 1954 Act in the last three years, Chief Inspector Verma told United News of India Special Correspondent Mukesh Jhangiani.

While commercial activity has mushroomed in most of the city’s residential areas, even hogging space meant for homes and street traffic, law or its rule have yet to catch up.

Wahi, for instance, could not say how many units do business in the NCT, as Delhi government stopped registering them almost two decades ago.

”Registration was mandatory under the Act prior to 23.11.1989 since when the same has been kept in abeyance,” a government website acknowledges.

Lawyers say they apply for registration on behalf of client firms only to secure a reply– often after repeated effort– that the process is on hold.

”We typically either do not get a response,” says advocate Diljeet Titus, ”or receive a note from the Chief Inspector stating ‘We acknowledge receipt of your application’.”

He says he applies to ensure ”no allegation of violation of the Act is made against the client in the absence of a registration.”

Section 37 of the Act empowers Inspectors to enter ”any… establishment,” examine the premises and records and take on the spot evidence so as to detect violations.

But a source said inspections have also been put on hold for ”four or five” years owing to short staffing and alleged corruption.

Complaints were made by some businessmen that authority was being abused to demand bribes, the source said.

Instead of cracking down on corrupt officers or businessmen, the city apparently chose to skip the drill provided in law to detect offences.

As to staffing, Verma disclosed that against 72 posts, the Department has barely 30 Shop Inspectors, and against 20 posts, barely nine Inspecting Officers. It doesn’t even have enough stenographers to transcribe orders, he said.

The induction of Delhi and Andaman Nicobar Islands Civil Services officers appears to have contributed complications of its own over professional qualifications, officials say.

So how does the Department enforce law ? According to Commissioner Wahi, the complaint of a labour violation has to come from the worker whose right is violated. ”We are here to take care of it.”

”On getting specific information regarding a violation,” said Verma, the Department ”investigates the complaint and decides the action to be taken in each case on merits.”

But experts say the odds of employees– waiters, salesmen, attendants or helpers– lodging complaints against employers, especially in prevailing market conditions, are low.

Even when a complaint is made, the processes are so set as to give employers ample opportunity to escape punishment.

Does the Commissioner’s office undertake to protect a worker victimised for filing a complaint ? For instance, what is the remedy if the employee is sacked.

Officials point to courts a worker may turn to.

Experts say courts may at best secure an employee’s unpaid wages.

But the costs, the time– years, decades– litigation takes, not to mention the tortuous risks and uncertainties it involves, make it impractical, even prohibitive.

An employee considering adjudication has to think about the next meal, rent or school fee ? What is worse is that the system offers little in terms of justice or deterrence against wrong.

Labour officers say they cannot go beyond the law, which often provides for petty, laughable fines– Rs 25, Rs 250, not revised in half a century.

But it turns out that even penalty law provides is seldom awarded by metropolitan magistrates who hear complaints.

For instance, Section 41 of the Act prescribes up to three months imprisonment for a false entry in office record.

But Labour officers, including N R Ahluwalia, who retired as ALC four years ago, said they could not recall a single instance in which an employer went to jail under the provision.

Experts acknowledge the dire need for clear laws, with strong deterrence in terms of mandatory punishment not just for violations, but for any lapse in enforcement at any level.

UNI MJ