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