Statement on the Binayak Sen Judgement


We are deeply anguished by the convictions and sentences of Dr. Binayak Sen, Piyush Guha, and Narayan Sanyal by the additional district and sessions judge of Raipur for sedition. We also note that in a separate case, Asit Sengupta was convicted and sentenced to eight years imprisonment for his work as magazine editor and publisher. Sanhati strongly condemns their convictions and sentences.

Convicting Dr. Sen of sedition and treason against the country, when he has devoted his life to service for the poorest citizens of India, yet again illustrates the disdain of the state towards its citizens and democracy. The real crime of Dr. Sen in the eyes of the government has been his protest against the state-sponsored vigilante force of Salwa Judum, and his efforts to bring to light the atrocities committed by this vigilante army on the indigeneous population of Chattisgarh. The state has attempted to make an example of Dr. Sen to all dissenting against its policies or protesting repression. Nevertheless, the state will fail in its attempt to create a fear psychosis among political and social activists; its efforts will only lead to the strengthening of resistance against state repression.

The charge made out by the prosecution against Dr. Sen was that he was responsible for passing letters from Narayan Sanyal lodged to Piyush Guha. Examination of witnesses and evidence presented by the defence demonstrated that the meetings in prison between Dr. Sen and Narayan Sanyal, the jailed Maoist leader, followed all legal norms and were based on the capacity of Dr. Sen as a physician and a human rights activist. When the accusations against Dr. Sen could not be supported by evidence in court, the government brought up other trumped-up charges and falsified evidence, much of which was glaring in its absurdity. That the court chose to overlook all this, has exposed the nature of our judicial system to the entire world.

It is necessary at this juncture to also mention that numerous undertrial political and social activists are today incarcerated in various prisons in India or languishing in jail for prolonged periods without trial, charged under various draconian state or central laws. These laws, and various draconian provisions of the criminal penal code, are being used to clamp down upon resistance movements against various anti-people policies pursued by the Indian state. The charges against Dr. Binayak Sen, and the travesty of justice in the name of his trial, have brought this hard truth to the fore.

We strongly condemn the convictions and sentences against Binayak Sen, Piyush Guha, Narayan Sanyal, and Asit Sengupta. We demand that the injustice meted out to them in the name of dispensing justice be rectified immediately. We also demand that the state immediately stops the systematic usage of various draconian laws and charges of sedition against activists to silence all voices of dissent.

On the Saxena Committee Report on the Forest Rights Act

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

The controversial Saxena Committee on the Forest Rights Act has submitted its report, which has finally been made public. We know that this report will be projected as pro-people and pro-rights. But this report will be most useful to those who set it up – a Ministry and a forest bureaucracy (see the note below) that wants more power, while presenting a facade of being sensitive and pro-people. Here are some reasons why.

Regarding the implementation of the Act, the Committee has endorsed what we and others have been pointing out for a long time. It points out the problems in rights recognition, recommends action against illegal evictions, and calls for recognition of community rights, coming to the same conclusions as the Council for Social Development report and what the movements have been saying. It identifies the forest bureaucracy as a major problem. In itself, this is welcome. But when it comes to what should be done about these problems, and especially about MoEF and the forest bureaucracy, the report falls apart.

On the Environment Ministry: The Committee’s recommendations target everyone except the Environment Ministry, the Central agency most responsible for policies in violation of the Act. Out of eleven pages of findings in chapter 11, MoEF’s actions are covered in half a page. The most dangerous of these actions (click here to know more) – illegal forest diversion for corporate projects; rapidly expanding afforestation and “conservation” programs with enormous potential for land grabbing and conflict; and the huge sums of money being deployed for this – are barely touched in the recommendations. The chapter on development projects admits “some clearances” were illegal. But there has not been a single case where the Ministry has complied with the law on diversion, and the Committee neither recommends cancellation of illegal clearances nor justice for those whose rights have been illegally violated. There are no recommendations on afforestation, except for vague statements that policies should be “reviewed” and should “respect the FRA.” Whose job is it to review these illegal actions, if not this Committee?

On Joint Forest Management: The Ministry’s current favorite program – Joint Forest Management (click here to know more) – is being expanded across the country and is a major tool in the Forest Department’s efforts to block communities from managing forests or exercising rights. It is condemned in the first half of chapter 8 of the report and in one part of the recommendations; but other parts say it should continue in most areas and even that it has “advantages.” Then, the “alternative recommendations” (signed by half the members of the Committee) condemn it again. Thus the Ministry can do pretty much anything on JFM and still claim the Committee’s endorsement.

On “redefining forest governance”: On this issue – which was said to be the Committee’s raison d’etre – the report says that the status quo of Joint Forest Management and Forest Department supervision should continue in the vast majority of forest areas (those where communities do not file formal claims for community forest resource rights). The “alternative recommendations” say there should be changes, but agree that there is no legal requirement for them (they would need “a new statute or amendment of existing statutes”). This is the escape clause the forest authorities have been looking for. After the structure of the Forest Department has been identified as being the single biggest reason for the failure to respect the law, when even the Home Secretary has attacked their zamindari attitude and abuse of power, the committee legitimises the status quo until there is a “new statute or amendment of existing statutes”. This is a total misreading of the law and a backpedaling on the most crucial issue in forest areas today.

Riddled with other contradictions: On non-timber forest produce, crucial to people’s livelihoods, the report identifies many problems, but then only says free sale should be permitted – while advocating continuation of other existing structures, which numerous government reports have condemned (the “alternative recommendations” disagree). Satellite imagery (currently a major tool for rejections) is endorsed and celebrated as a mode for verifying rights in one section, which however also contains one sentence admitting it “cannot verify the existence of any right under the Act” (p. 66). On whether or not people should be removed from wildlife habitats, the report advocates two diametrically opposed views in the same paragraph (p. 131), one of which is called “dissenting” – but is in the main text. After describing critical tiger habitat notifications as “in violation of the Act”, once again it only recommends a “review” (p. 217).

In sum, the report is a mishmash that permits the Environment Ministry to do what it pleases, and still to claim the mantle of being pro-people. Indeed, almost any point raised in favour of people can be contradicted by citing some other part of the report.

When the Campaign was invited to join this Committee, we declined for precisely this reason. It is not the findings of government committees that matter, but whether and how they can be used by the powers that be. The nature and constitution of this committee, as reflected in its report, lent themselves to precisely such manipulation. We can be sure that all the ambiguities and contradictions in this report will be exploited to the fullest extent, even as the positive points it raises will be quietly discarded except where they serve the establishment’s interests.

The struggle in forest areas is today reaching a pitch where the Central government is on the back foot. Whether in Vedanta and POSCO, or in the hellholes of Operation Green Hunt, or in the anti-dam movements of the Northeast, we see people resisting a brutal machine that respects neither law nor life. The forest bureaucracy is one crucial cog in that machine. Let us not permit it to clothe itself in the language of rights and hide its true face.

Note: The fiction of a “joint committee” does not require much attention. This “joint committee” includes six forest officers, one of whom is co-chair, as against one Tribal Ministry representative. Meanwhile, as the report itself describes, this “joint committee” was first notified by the Environment Ministry alone, which then roped in the Tribal Ministry after criticism. In August, the Tribal Minister chose to write to the Environment Minister to complain about the Committee’s functioning, not to the chair, showing who actually controls the Committee. Finally, the report itself declares that the Tribal Ministry member “hardly attended the meetings of the Committee, nor sent his representative.” The “joint committee” fiction was just the result of pressure from the Environment Ministry on an apathetic and weak Tribal Ministry, in order to escape the charge of exceeding its mandate.

Halt the Repression and End the Attack on Democratic Rights

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

The conviction of Dr. Binayak Sen and his co-accused, Narayan Sanyal and Piyush Guha, is yet another sign of how little democratic freedoms appear to matter to the government. On the basis of what appears to be non-existent evidence, a trial court has convicted all three of (among other charges) sedition, the “crime” that Gandhi once referred to as the “prince of all political sections designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen.”

Meanwhile, literally tens of thousands of other people languish in prison, and many tens of thousands more face ongoing criminal charges, for equally ridiculous and flimsy reasons. Hundreds of adivasis are in prison in Dantewada and other areas of Operation Green Hunt without even being charged. Protesters who do nothing but demand respect for the law find themselves in jail; at this moment, around 2,000 members of the Satyashodhak Grameen Kashtakari Sabha (a member organisation of the Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti, affiliated to the Campaign) are in jail in Nandurbar District, Maharashtra, for demanding basic amenities like ration cards and respect for forest rights. Avinash Kulkarni, Bharat Powar and a number of other forest movement activists spent almost six months in jail in Gujarat, and still face charges of, inevitably, sedition and waging war against the state (see earlier press statement).

Even as democratic rights are thrown to the winds, we find the laws being violated and land and resources being grabbed on a massive scale across the country. The state machinery has turned itself into a mercenary cabal, sold to the highest bidder; on POSCO, fully two and a half months after the Enquiry Committee found gross violations of law, nothing has been done. Huge sums of money are being funneled into land-grabbing schemes across the country.

It is not seditious, apparently, to have brazen contempt for justice and people, or to engage in daylight robbery of the country’s money; but it is seditious to talk of rights and law. This is the farce enacted by a government that never tires of talking of the “rule of law.”

Press Release: On State Terrorism in Dandakaranya

Theorising Practice, Practising Theory: A Panel Discussion on “Insurgent Metaphors” (Nov 16)

Department of Political Science
University of Delhi

Invites you to

A Panel Discussion on Insurgent Metaphors: Essays in Culture and Class by Pothik Ghosh


1. Prashanta Chakravarty, Associate Professor, department of English literature, Delhi University

2. Saroj Giri, Assistant Professor, department of Political Science, Delhi University

3. Rajarshi Dasgupta, Assistant Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawahar Lal Nehru University

4. Alok Kumar, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan, Delhi

5. Paresh Chandra, Member of Correspondence editorial board, Delhi University

Date: Tuesday, 16th Nov 2010

Time: 2 pm

Venue: Lecture Hall,
2nd Floor, Faculty of Social Sciences Building ,
Delhi University (North Campus)
Opposite Daulat Ram College

Jalandhar Convention on War against People and the Role of Democratic Forces


On 17th October, when people were celebrating Dussehra to mark the victory of Good over the Evil, the Democratic Front Against Operation Green Hunt, Punjab, held a massive Convention in Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall, Jalandhar on “War against the people & Role of Democratic Forces.” It was addressed by noted pro-people thinker and Booker Award winner writer Arundhati Roy and Gandhian social activist Himanshu Kumar. Hundreds of people from all walks of life – University Professors, Research Scholars, Students, Artists, littérateur, cultural activists, press-persons, farmers, agricultural and industrial laborers, trade unionists, thinkers etc., participated from all across Punjab and Chandigarh. The Convention Hall having a seating capacity of 900 was overfilled and hundreds of people were left to hear the programme from outside the Convention Hall.

The Convention Hall was tastefully decorated with flex-hoardings having appropriate messages. The theme hoarding had the poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller – ‘FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE COMMUNISTS’, with a painting depicting peoples’ struggle in the background. Two others were having poems by two noted peoples’ poets of Punjab Sant Ram Udasi- MAGHDA RAHIN VE SURJA (Shine O Sun brightly) and Pash- ASIN LARANGE SATHI (Comrade! We will fight). There were quotations from Shaheed Bhagat Singh, ‘HAWA MEIN RAHENGI MERE KHIALON KI BIJLIAN’ (I may or may not live, but my ideas will remain galvanizing the air eternally)

The Convention was presided over by a presidium consisting of Dr. Parminder Singh (Professor Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar), Prof. A.K.Maleri (Ludhiana), Sh. Yash Pal (Retired Teacher and Editor VARG CHETNA), Prof. Ajmer Singh Aulakh (Noted pro-people Punjabi Dramatist), Com Gandharav Sen Kochhar and Sh. Naunihal Singh(both from Desh Bhagat Yadgar Committee, formed to honor the martyrs of Gadar Movement).

Arundhati Roy opened her speech with the remark that the Indian state has been waging a war against its own people in many parts of the country such as North East, Kashmir, Punjab and many other places for the last 60 years using military and the police to ruthlessly suppress them. She paid rich compliments to the poor people and tribals living in the forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra, West Bengal and Maharashtra, who were fighting valiantly to save their lands, forests, water and mineral wealth from being plundered by the world’s richest companies. Preaching non-violence to the tribals of Chhattisgarh is immoral. To those, who accuse the tribals of being violent, she asked: ‘When people are forced to die of hunger, when they are uprooted after depriving them of their lands and livelihood, in the name of development, is it not violence?’ Is it not ironic to advise those, who have empty stomachs and empty pockets, to follow the Gandhian tools of Hunger strike and boycott of foreign goods?

She said that to oppose operation Green Hunt, one need not go and fight in the jungles of Dantewada. Fighting against injustice at our own place is also an important contribution to this cause. Struggles against SEZ and the exploitative Commission Agent (ARHTIYA) system in Punjab are part of the fight against operation Green Hunt. She called upon the intellectuals and toiling sections of the masses to build a broad spectrum of resistance movements against the neo-liberal policies of the State and its onslaught on the peoples’ movements in the form of armed operations such as Green Hunt.

Commenting on the ongoing events in the states under operation Green Hunt, she said that there is a strong link between development and genocide. There is genocide under the façade of development. When the people are uprooted from their lands, culture sources of livelihood, they are doomed to die. In India Crores of people suffer from the AIDS of malnutrition. Malnutrition not only leads its victim to death, but casts its agonizing shadow on the next generations also.

She said while the Naxals are fighting a protracted war against the capitalist system and big corporates, the Indian state was fighting war against its own people. She suggested having diverse methods of resistance in a wider struggle to challenge oppressive policies of the state.

She said the Green Hunt began in Punjab earlier than Chhattisgarh, with the advent of “Green Revolution”. Green Hunt is infact the phenomenon to deprive the people of their land and the resources attached to it such as water, forests, mines etc. Green Revolution and the farmers’ suicides in its aftermath is pointer to this. About 1,80,000 debt trapped farmers have committed suicides in the country. She deplored the Punjab Govt for having branded the 17 organization of farmers and agri-labourers as Naxalite front organizations. Those who raise their voice against injustice are branded as Naxalite. If the rulers continued to follow the policies of privatization and liberalization, then they shall have to deploy army in the whole country. In two decades of neo-liberal policies, the number of people below poverty line have increased manifold, while 100 people own 25 percent of national wealth.

She said the Indian democracy has become shallow. Democracy doesn’t mean mere periodic elections. Democratic rights of the people are being trampled under the foot. Indian Constitution has lost its meaning as the judiciary, media and Parliament have all been made to serve the corporates and monied people. Media is in the hands of corporates. Courts have gone beyond the reach of common man and have become a tool to endorse neo-liberal anti-people policies of the State.

There was a lively discussion on her speech and she answered most of the questions raised by the participants.

Noted Gandhian Himanshu Kumar, who had gone on a cycle-yatra of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, after addressing 16 conventions against Operation Green Hunt throughout Punjab on the invitation of the Democratic Front, shared his assessment of the situation prevailing in those states. He said the situation was explosive everywhere. There were many Dantewadas in the making due to anti-people policies of the rulers. He said in Gujrat, the Forest Rights Act envisages grant of land up to 10 acres on lease to tribals in the forest areas. But Modi Government has not granted even an inch of land to them. But the same Govt has gifted away 1,02,000 acres of land to 176 corporate houses. A functioning university has been closed to provide land to Tata’s Nano plant. A hundred people of this country control 25 percent of its wealth. Our Prime Minister says the people are becoming violent. But the question is why after six decades of independence, there is violence. Are only the Naxalite responsible for this violence? In fact the development model, being implemented by the rulers is resulting in the poor becoming poorer and the rich becoming richer. Development has become synonymous with depriving the poor of their livelihood resources, such as land, water, forests, mineral wealth etc., to fill the coffers of the rich. It will definitely breed violence. Instead of following the principles of social justice and equity, we are following the law of jungle, where might is right. This situation has to be changed. Quoting Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave, he said that if injustice and inequity persists in the society, violence is inevitable, because the victims of injustice and inequity cannot be expected to take the things lying down; they will definitely revolt to change the system, to assert their rights. He said injustice must not be tolerated. It should be resisted at all costs. Non-violence should never become an excuse to run away from the fight against injustice.

Both the speakers were presented with the portraits of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, a poster with Pastor Niemoller’s poem, and a set of three books- ‘History of Gadar Party’, ‘History of Naujwan Bharat Sabha’ and ‘Dialogue with the Revolutionaries’. Mrs. Veena wife of Himanshu Kumar, who spent 18 years with him at Dantewada, serving the tribals was also honored.

After the convention Arundhati Roy held an interaction with Research Scholars and students from three universities of Punjab and prominent historians in the Gadar Museum Hall. She along with Himanshu Kumar and his family and Sanjay Kak, went around the museum evincing keen interest in the revolutionary history of Punjab, particularly the Gadar movement.

At the end of the convention the participants passed resolutions with raised hands demanding an end to Operation Green Hunt; withdrawl of military and para-military forces from the tribal areas; disbanding Salwa Judum and such other fascist organizations; recognizing the rights of tribals over their forests, lands, water and natural resources; stopping SEZ and uprooting of tribals in the name of development; roll-back neo-liberal policies of privatization, globalization and liberalization; repeal black laws such as Armed Forces Special Power Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act etc.; stop false encounters and implication of innocent people in false criminal cases; revoke the ban imposed on CPI Maoist and its front organizations; allow the pro-people press-persons and democratic organizations to visit tribal areas; hold judicial inquiry in the killing of Maoist leader ‘Azad’ in a fake encounter; stop the conspiracies to foist false cases on Arundhati Roy, Himanshu Kumar, Nisha Biswas, and other noted intellectuals; punish the murderers of peasant leader Sadhu Singh Takhtupura and Pirthipal Singh Alisher and the killers of peasants at Khanna Chamiara in Punjab; Stop implicating leaders and activists of mass organizations of farmers, agri-labourers, employees, unemployed youth in Punjab and other states in false criminal cases and torturing them; Close all the interrogation centers such as the one at Amritsar known as Joint Interrogation Center.

Release of Report challenging claims about ‘benefits’ of POSCO Project (Oct 20, 2010)

Mining Zone Peoples’ Solidarity Group
Report By International Group Challenging Government’s Claims About Purported Benefits of POSCO Project

Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 11 AM – 1 PM (lunch will be served)
Indian Women’s Press Corps, 5 Windsor Place, New Delhi

Pohang Iron and Steel Company (POSCO)’s proposed project in Orissa is the largest foreign direct investment project in India to date. It comprises a steel processing plant and a captive port in Jagatsinghpur district, and iron ore mining in Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts. The MoU for the project was signed in June 2005. The government of Orissa has pulled out all stops to get the project going and appears to have the support of the center, but the project has been stalled because of strong resistance from the local residents, a resistance that the government has tried to bypass and crush in myriad ways. The resistance has survived into its sixth year.

Based upon new research into livelihood, governance and environmental issues in Orissa’s Jagatsinghpur, Keonjhar, and Sundergarh districts, a US-based group of academics and professionals are poised to publish a startling new report that:

– challenges the purported benefits such as tax revenues and employment growth of the POSCO project,
– points to gross violations of the law by the State and Central governments, and
– raises troubling questions about the state of Democracy.

The report will be released at the press conference on Wednesday.


Girish Agrawal, California-based Lawyer and Civil Engineer, and one of the authors of the report
Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity
Professor Manoranjan Mohanty, Delhi Solidarity Group
Professor Amit Bhaduri

The Mining Zone People’s Solidarity Group is an international research group focused on India, with core interests in new economic policy. We have been following the development of several large projects in India. Between February and September 2010, MZPSG has investigated claims made by the Central and Orissa state governments, POSCO, and allegedly neutral research bodies such as NCAER about the benefits of the proposed POSCO integrated steel project and captive port in Orissa.

POSCO: Majority Committee Report Confirms Project Illegal

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

The Campaign welcomes the majority report of the POSCO enquiry committee released today. Three of the four members confirmed that the project is illegal and was granted clearances in violation of the law. Some key findings include:

* The forest clearance was illegal and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had no right to divert the land without the consent of the gram sabhas of the area.

* The people of the area are indeed eligible under the Forest Rights Act.

* The project may have a dangerous environmental impact on large numbers of people through its impact on water availability, air pollution, flooding, etc. Even when these issues were raised by government authorities such as the regional MoEF office and the State Pollution Control Board, both the Orissa authorities and the MoEF ignored them.

* The project was given environmental clearance in violation of the law and of procedure. The public hearing was a farce.

* POSCO suppressed facts in order to get around the law.

This confirms the facts brought up earlier by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, the CPI and numerous people’s movements over the past five years. Once again, the process of “development projects” in this country has been exposed as a criminal exercise in resource grabbing.

As expected, Meena Gupta, the former secretary of Environment who granted the environment clearance for this project, has dissented and said the clearance should stand. She has also tried to say that forest rights should be recognised “with a time limit” and that then the project can go ahead. This position flies in the face of law and justice. We have already had one experience of Ms. Gupta when she was the Secretary of Tribal Affairs and contributed greatly to the last minute dilution and sabotage of the Forest Rights Act just prior to its passage. Given her clear conflict of interest and the fact that three others of widely different perspectives disagreed with her, there is no reason to give her position much weight.

The Executive Summary of the Meena Gupta Committee Report
The Complete Report

The condition of workers injured outside JLN Stadium worsens

Affiliated to All India Workers’ Unity Centre (AIWUC)
Office: 3267, Gali No. 8A, Baljeet Nagar, Delhi-8
Ph: 9313730069

On the night of September 28, two workers, Ashok and Phoolbabu, who were injured in the foot-bridge collapse outside JLN Stadium, were discharged from Safdarjung Hospital. In their discussion with trade union members of Delhi Nirman Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti (DNMSS), both the workers explained in detail how they were shamelessly exploited by the contractor. Their job cards showed that they had worked way above the prescribed norms for overtime. Punni, one of the workers injured in the accident and who is still in coma in AIIMS Trauma Centre, had worked for 21 hours at a stretch just two days before the accident. The workers who have been discharged so far have clearly exposed that whenever they resisted overtime, they were badly threatened and were told that if they didn’t comply their pending wages would not be released. In this way they were completely silenced and treated like animals. In fact, the workers mentioned that just prior to the accident they had complained of having to work in the bad weather. Considering they were provided no helmets or any safety gear, they were apprehensive from the very beginning about working on the foot-bridge.

The condition of the discharged workers is very troubling for they are all need of long term rehabilitation/ physiotherapy and are still complaining of pain and discomfort. The fact that their compensation money has still not been released is a source of great anxiety to them and their families. It is shameful that so far no interim amount of money has been released for them so as to help in their immediate recuperation. To add to their anxiety the workers are being harassed by the contractor’s goons, who are forcing them to hand over their discharge papers and to sign/give thumb impressions on blank papers.

The situation is disturbing even in the case of workers still hospitalized. Punni and Jitendar are still in coma in AIIMS. Meanwhile their relatives in hospital are struggling with no help coming forth from the CWG Organizing Committee or Delhi Government. The workers’ relatives have run out of money but are still harassed to pay for MRIs, CAT SCANS, etc. They are continuously pressed to arrange for blood provided by the hospital to their injured ones. Furthermore, with no special arrangements being made for them in the hospital, relatives of the workers are absolutely alone and find themselves struggling for proper shelter. Indeed, it is a shame that they learnt of the accident not through the CWG Organizing Committee or Delhi Government but through the media and word of mouth.

If this situation continues any further, DNMSS will be compelled to launch a city-wide strike of construction workers along with other trade unions and civil liberty groups. We continue to demand immediate release of compensation money to the workers, the provision of government jobs to seriously injured workers, the implementation of a help-desk for relatives struggling in hospitals where many workers are still admitted, and the provision of post-discharge rehabilitation/ physiotherapy to the workers injured.

Commonwealth Games, National Pride and Workers’ Death


Dharna held outside Head Office of the CWG Organizing Committee against blatant exploitation of workers
Fact-Finding Team Visits Injured Workers: Shocked at Lack of Crucial Arrangements like a Help Line

Today on September 23, workers, trade unions, students and civil rights activists held a dharna outside the Head Office of the Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee in Jantar Mantar. This protest was called following the collapse of the hastily built footbridge outside JLN Stadium on September 21. The incident left 27 workers injured, five of whom are critically injured and admitted in AIIMS.

The protesters pointed to the obvious negligence on the part of government officials, and the fact that workers have been continuously exposed to dangerous work conditions across CWG work sites. They argued that the Games were being used to rake in huge profits for builders, many of whom acquired tenders surreptitiously from the government, and have unhesitatingly exploited workers and built structures of poor quality to save on building costs. Hailing the Games a profit-vending event rather than an event of ‘national pride’, Shri Alok Kumar (Secretary of Delhi Nirman Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti), specified that contractors have made most of their profits by exploiting workers. He said that contractors have been openly exploiting construction workers by exposing them to long hours of work and dangerous work conditions. The government has been party to this exploitation since it is the principal employer in all CWG construction projects. Shri Nag Bhushan, a prominent trade unionist from Gurgaon also addressed the protest. He argued that that the government’s silence, and at the most its tardy response on the issue, has allowed for continuous and brutal exploitation of workers in the name of the Commonwealth Games.

It is for these reasons that the protesters targeted the Organizing Committee (OC). The delegation sent by them demanded the following:
i) Resignation of the state PWD Minister, Shri Rajkumar Chauhan
ii) Provision of government jobs to all 27 workers injured
iii) Immediate release of adequate compensation to all workers injured in CWG work sites.
iv) Cancellation of all contracts given to the accused construction company

Following the apathetic response of the OC the protesters decided to intensify the struggle against the exploitation of workers across CWG construction sites by using all democratic means possible. Trade unions present at the protest have decided to mobilize workers across all CWG worksites on the issue of workers’ blatant exploitation. Considering the fact that CWG organizers have repeatedly boycotted the interests of workers, workers have now decided to organize themselves and reach out to civil society in a bid to stall the Games completely. Through spontaneous protests throughout the period of construction work in CWG work sites, workers have rightfully delayed construction work of the CWG in the past. Now by providing their struggle an organized form they aim to expose to the Indian public, the brutality with which such mega events are organized and executed.

Following the protest at Jantar Mantar a fact finding team was constituted which visited the workers admitted in AIIMS. The team consisting of trade unionists, Delhi University teachers and students visited AIIMS and were shocked by the lack of crucial arrangements that should have been made by the CWG Organizing Committee. Out of the 8 patients hospitalized in AIIMS, 3 are admitted in the ICU (in critical condition, suffering from severe head injuries), and 5 have spinal injuries, out of whom one is already paralyzed. From the discussions with the patients’ relatives it was evident that no information was provided to them on the accident by the CWG Organizing Committee (OC) or Delhi Government. Relatives reached the hospital on hearing about the incident by word of mouth and no provisions were made by the OC/Delhi Government for their travel to Delhi! It was evident to the fact finding team that no volunteers from the OC were made available at AIIMS so as to help/guide relatives coming in to meet the patients. Indeed, the fact finding team itself had difficulty locating the workers in the hospital and ended up wasting crucial time before locating one of the injured workers. The apathy of the government officials was also revealed by the fact that some of the patients’ relatives have been asked to arranged for blood themselves. In its appraisal to the fact finding team, the AIIMS staff made it clear that the injured workers require long term rehabilitation.

The response of the Delhi Government is very shocking and their callous behavior (reflected in their unwillingness to provide proper facilities to workers injured in the name of CWG), is condemnable. We must highlight the terrible way in which workers have been exploited in the name of CWG. We hope that the larger civil society will step forward to help their laboring brethren.

Alok Kumar, Secretary, Delhi Nirman Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti (Ph: 9313730069) Sujit Kumar, State Committee Member, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (Ph: 9312654851)

Supported by:
Indian Council of Trade Unions (ICTU)
Centre For Struggling Workers in Trade Union (CSWTU)
All India Federation of Trade Unions (AIFTU)