October 01, 2010
Crying Foul Over Violations, Secrecy In Games !
By Mukesh Jhangiani
United News of India
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.
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.”
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
- UK businessman gets bail in CWG Queen’s Baton Relay scam (thehindu.com)
- CWG tax evasion: Govt. slaps recovery notices for Rs. 505 crore (thehindu.com)
- Kalmadi to face trial for ‘cheating’ (assamtribune.com)
- Timeline of the Indian Olympics Association mess (ibnlive.in.com)