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Ground Report on the Real Estate Mafia’s Reign of Terror in Noida: Bigul Mazdoor Dasta

April 30, 2013

This is a guest post by Bigul Mazdoor Dasta  Noida is one among those places which are highlighted as the hub of the ‘emerging’ and ‘shining’ India. The glittery shopping malls, world class expressway, flyovers, F1 International circuit, luxury apartments, villas etc. are cited as the symbols of India’s ‘growth story’ and Noida has all of these. For the last couple of decades, the mainstream corporate media has been busy selling this growth story to the emerging urban upper middle class; in the process making them a customer of artificially inflated dreams such as having one’s own luxurious house. But, curiously, the harrowing stories of those whose labour power is responsible for this so called development are conspicuous by their absence in the mainstream media’s narrative. The labourers come into the news only when some untoward incident happens and they are immediately held responsible for any such incidents without carrying out any investigation. One such horrendous incident took place on April, 28 at one of the hundreds of construction sites in Noida in which the security guards of the site opened fire on the labourers and in the process injuring some of them. On the morning of the April 28, the workers of the 3C Lotus Panache company’s constructions site at Noida’s Sector 110 witnessed the naked reign of terror by the company’s management. At the beginning of the morning shift at around 8 a.m., the workers had reached the construction site to join the construction work of the multi-story apartment complex, but they had to stand in a big queue because the security guards at the gate were taking a long time to intensively check each worker and make an entry. When some workers protested against this lax attitude of the guards, saying that they had to listen to the supervisor’s abuses if they were late even by one minute, a heated exchange took place between the security guards and workers and suddenly the guards started firing indiscriminately over the workers. As per the media reports, two workers were injured, but when a team of Bigul Mazdoor Dasta visited the workers settlement adjacent to the construction site, some workers said that the number of the injured workers could be four which includes a child as well and one of the workers is seriously injured and his life is in danger. As per the records of the district hospital in Noida, only one worker was admitted on April 28. Other workers were admitted to some private hospital.

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The workers settlement adjacent to the construction site where the incident took place

On probing further, the workers revealed that the security guards and supervisors used to routinely interact with the workers in an abusive manner. Some workers said that the contractor did not give payment to the workers for last 3 months. The workers also revealed that the average daily wage of an unskilled construction worker was Rs. 140-150 whereas that of the skilled worker was around Rs 250. When the representatives of the Bigul Mazdoor Dasta told them that it was even below the minimum wages fixed by the government (which itself is ridiculously low), the workers said that whenever they demanded to increase the wages, the contractor had this to say that there are enough number of people ready to work on this wage and if they have to work on this wage then carry on or else they can leave.

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A scene of the workers settlement showing the pathetic conditions in which the workers are condemned to live

The living conditions of the workers’ residence, a temporary settlement made of tin sheds, can be at best described as sub-human. Thousands of workers live in this settlement which can easily be called a construction labour camp. There is no drinking water facility. The workers have to buy the water. The electricity is temporary and quite infrequent. The toilet facilities are totally inadequate and hygiene conditions are pathetic. Due to the absence of a drainage system, water logging is a common problem faced by the workers in the rainy season. And to top it all, this entire settlement will be uprooted once the construction project is over and the workers will have to move to another equally bad or even worse settlement adjacent to a new construction site. These stories of naked exploitation do not appear in the mainstream corporate media. As it often happens, in this case as well, the reports by local and the national media disregarded the plight of the workers and focused mainly on the violent actions taken by the workers out of desperation as they were very angry with the non-responsive behaviour of the police. The workers said that despite being present in close vicinity, the police did not come when the guards were opening fire. After some time, a huge police force and PAC battalions reached the spot to “control the angry workers”, but in fact to protect the guards from the angered workers. The workers said that the police released the guards as some of them were seen roaming freely the next day morning. The workers’ colony was on the other hand was encircled by police from all sides. It is quite clear that the police machinery is hand in glove with the management of the construction company to hold the workers reponsible for this incident. Thus the real estate mafia’s reign of terror goes on under the protective cover of the police machinery and the workers continue to suffer.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 12:41 PM

    I am just wondering. Does the construction industry have any labour standards which they are supposed to adhere to? This is because everywhere from gurgaon to noida to bombay, large construction always requires the workers to stay in close proximity to the site, and to work in shifts – which they do in JJ clusters around that area – when this should ideally be the responsibility of the builder (for the period of construction). In which case one can take the builders to task regarding those conditions, transport of the workers, sanitation and medical facilities. Recently saw a documentary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1meCUpEs_Lw) which seemed to show an enlightened builder.

    I realise my comment is tangential to the bigger import of the article about the lives at stake.

    • April 30, 2013 8:20 PM

      Mr. spandan Biswal,

      To me the builder in the video seems to be clever and cunning than enlightened as he is using this video to market his brand. His USP seems to be that his group is humane towards the workers whereas other builder exploit the workers. Such kind of people are actually more dangerous as they create an illusion that the problem is not systemic but it is only because of some corrupt and inhuman people that the labour gets exploited. No amount of window dressing can conceal the ugly face of the capitalist system which is inherently exploitative and it’s high time we propagate the idea of overthrowing this system rather than doing some futile patch up work to stop this capitalist edifice from its inevitable collapse.

  2. April 30, 2013 8:53 PM

    Ground Report on the Real Estate Mafia’s Reign of Terror in Noida: Bigul Mazdoor Dasta: In India construction industry is a criminal industry. In this industry there is a nexus of politicians, bureaucracy, judiciary builders’ lobby, and farmers, laborer and investors are exploited by them all. In this industry there are no safeguards for farmers, investors and laborers standards which they are supposed to follow. This is because everywhere from Gurugram, Noida, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Delhi etc., Every years even number of farmers, investors and laborers die due to the exploitation of builders. But seeing all round the chaos and anarchy in the nation, there is no hope in the coming future. Nation is ruled by most corrupt and sick government. So no hope of any respite.

  3. Sunalini Kumar permalink*
    May 1, 2013 8:26 AM

    Spandan, when was the last time you saw any company take responsibility for housing, apart from the Navaratnas and limited housing for other government employees (for example a college’s or university’s faculty have to compete for the handful of sub-standard housing on campus which at the best of times may accommodate a quarter of the entire strength). Employees of most public and private sector companies find housing in the open market. If they are lucky they get house rent allowance, which never keeps up with rents. And I’m talking of proper ‘employees’ – with security of employment, PF, pensions, etc. How do you think contract/daily labour will be able to claim housing, when their daily pay is 150 rupees? So yes, they stay near the site, but in tenements built by themselves. The margins of the construction industry, which have to accommodate massive slumps in the housing market and long gestation periods, are built on the absolute exploitation of construction labour. That is the reason the CEOs and managers can drive around in their SUVs. If manufacturing can use contract labour, what will stop the construction sector, which is far less regulated? I realise your comment was well-intentioned, but it struck me as a little naive.

  4. May 2, 2013 1:50 PM

    Reblogged this on dropitintheocean and commented:
    Relevant to my research in Tamilnadu.

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