Workers say construction ban should have been lifted earlier

Pedestrians pass through heavy dust pollution in New Delhi on Friday.

Pedestrians pass through heavy dust pollution in New Delhi on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

‘Govt. should pay minimum wages for the period the labourers were out of work’

Reacting to the Supreme Court lifting the ban on construction activities from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Delhi-NCR, workers’ associations as well as builders said that they were “heavily” affected by the ban “which should have been lifted much earlier”, and demanded compensation in lieu of wages lost.

“Many labourers went back to their villages after the ban as they were unable to meet their expenses here without a job. Many of the major labour chowks were about 70% empty after the ban,” said Abhishek, general secretary of AICCTU (Delhi).

“This time, the ban on construction activities was unusually long and it was a huge set back for the sector. The air quality had improved last month and the ban should have been lifted earlier,” said Rajiv Goel, chairman (Delhi) of the Builders Association of India.

Officials of the Delhi government’s Environment Department, however, said that pollution is due to multiple factors, including construction dust, and they work on every front to control it.

On November 4, the top court had imposed a complete ban on construction and demolition activities in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) due to severe pollution prevailing during that period. On December 9, the Supreme Court allowed construction activities in the Delhi-NCR to take place between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. following recommendation of the Central Pollution Control Board.

‘Suffered the most’

Mr. Abhishek said that they had protested outside the Chief Minister’s residence last year after the ban.

“The government should pay minimum wages to the workers during the period of the ban or give them alternative work. These are people who do not cause pollution by driving cars or running ACs. But they bear the brunt of the pollution by working on the ground and when there is a ban they suffer the most. There is no end to their suffering,” he added.

Mr. Goel said that labourers who leave a construction site do not come back easily and most of the equipment is taken on rent and they have to keep paying the rent, despite construction not happening. “Pollution is mainly due to stubble burning and weather conditions. If it is due to construction, then why is air quality not improving after stopping construction?” he asked.

Experts, meanwhile, said that now was the right time to lift the ban but the government should make sure that contractors follow dust control measures.

“Dust control measures should be implemented despite the fact that there is a ban or not. Right now the compliance to dust control measures is less and government should be more active in checking violations,” said Vivek Chattopadhyaya, a senior programme manager of ‘Clean Air Programme’ at Centre for Science and Environment.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:56:29 PM |

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