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27 Apr 2021

Vijayta Lalwani,

India: As Covid-19 devastates Delhi, exception made for Central Vista project despite lockdown, endangering worker lives

"As Covid-19 devastates Delhi, Central Vista project declared an essential service, work continues", 27 April 2021

...For ten days now, India’s capital has been under lockdown, with its health system collapsing in the face of a wall of coronavirus cases. At least 2,267 people have died of Covid-19 in the past week – and this is just a fraction of the deaths since many are going uncounted. Day after day, families frantically look for hospital beds, which have run out, and hospitals, on their part, send SOS messages to the government about oxygen shortages which in some cases have led to deaths.

...As some have pointed out, the amount the government is spending on the Central Vista project would have been enough to build thousands of oxygen generation plants. The cost of 162 oxygen generation plants being built by the central government is Rs 201 crore. In contrast, the budget for the new Parliament building itself is nearly five times more at Rs 971 crore.

... Currently, only construction projects which have workers staying on the site are permitted to operate in Delhi as per lockdown guidelines. But an exception has been made for the Central Vista project...[M]ost workers on the site said they were commuting to work on buses daily.

...Workers...said there were no living arrangements for them on the Central Vista or anywhere near it. They lived in rented rooms at three locations...Every morning, they came to the site on buses arranged by the contractor, they said.

... The fear of the coronavirus was evident among the workers who were aware that the pandemic was rampaging through the city as well as their home states. Many said they wanted to be with their families. Some workers said the only reason they had stayed back in the city was because they had not been paid their wages.

...Scroll.in contacted Sanjay Singh, the proprietor of MV Constructions, who said workers would get their full salaries at the end of the month.

... But now, they find themselves without wages, left to fend for themselves during a lockdown.