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Unpaid,workers drop out of Games

Recession has slowly begun to deplete the manpower that is propping up Commonwealth Games projects. It is reported that more than 5,000 workers,mostly migrants,have withdrawn from the various projects...

Written by Ayesha Arvind | New Delhi |
March 13, 2009 11:36:40 pm

Promoter Emaar-MGF does not deal with workforce,says official; confirms projects are on track

Recession has slowly begun to deplete the manpower that is propping up Commonwealth Games projects.

It is reported that more than 5,000 workers,mostly migrants,have withdrawn from the various projects because payments have been erratic. The worst-hit are the construction workers who are paid on a daily-wage basis.

The construction site had roughly 18,500 workers at the last count,the non-government organisation Citizens for Workers,Women and Children (CWG-CWC),has said. Sources said almost half have left ever since,an attrition which is likely to push back deadlines.

Though the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) does not have an estimate of those working on Games sites,the agency’s Chief Public Relations Officer Nemo Dhar said they rely on the data provided by the contract agencies. Arun Sahai,the Chief Executive Officer of Ahluwalia Contracts — the main agency that hires workers — told Newsline that nearly 7,500 of them are employed now.

A migrant labourer from Bihar Pradip Kumar (name changed) said workers have begun to leave. “We were never paid on time,and whatever we get is in parts.” Till last week,he said,most workers had not been paid for three months. Saturday brought January’s salary,but there is still no word of previous dues,workers said.

Sahai had last week said workers would be paid before Holi. He admitted on Thursday that a few of them had left work,but not before taking their full dues,he added. “Some have returned to their villages for good,while others are on leave to celebrate Holi and will return in a month,” Sahai said.

Workers however said they were resentful of not being paid for months. Sandeep (name changed) from Bihar said: “There is hardly any health or civic facilities for us. Not getting paid adds to that woe. Contractors tell us they can’t pay because they are owed over Rs 100 crore by other companies. Several of us are looking elsewhere.”

Sahai said the Emaar-MGF group,the main promoters of the project,owes them over Rs 85 crore. He said: “Emaar has faced funding issues since December 2008. We tried paying salaries from our own funds till January. We are only facilitators of the project,and not its financiers.”

But Emaar does not agree. “We do not deal with workers directly,nor do we know how and when they are paid,” said Anupama Chopra of the Group. She added all dues have been paid to Ahluwalia. Chopra said if workers are leaving,it certainly has not affected the schedule. “We have recently achieved the third milestone in line with the project developer’s agreement signed with DDA,” Chopra said.

In June 2007,Emaar-MGF — the joint venture between Dubai-based Emaar Properties PJSC and India’s MGF Developments Ltd — won the bid to build the Commonwealth Games Village over 118 acres near the Akshardham Temple in East Delhi. Emaar-MGF is developing the project in partnership with the DDA. A stadium and 1,168 flats are being built at the Village for athletes and delegates.

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