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Poor Working Conditions at Central Vista, But ‘No Photos Allowed’

After criticism, photos and videos have been disallowed at the construction site of Central Vista project.

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Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video Editors: Abhishek Sharma/Mohd Irshad Alam
Senior Editor: Aditya Menon

The Narendra Modi government has made an exception for its pet project of beautification of Central Vista to continue construction work during the pandemic lockdown in Delhi on the condition that all labourers are staying on-site. However, a ground report by The Quint found that there are several construction workers who stay off site and travel to and fro work every day.

The Rs 20,000-crore project has been heavily criticised for being given permission to continue work even as Delhi citizens gasped for oxygen during the deadly second surge. A petition in the Delhi High Court has sought to temporarily pause the construction work of the project amid the raging pandemic.

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The Centre has strongly opposed the petition calling it a ‘sheer abuse of law’, but now boards have been put up prohibiting photography and videography of the construction site after a photo of dilapidated Rajpath, by news agency PTI, drew heavy flak on social media.

Poor Working Conditions at Central Vista, But ‘No Photos Allowed’
(Photo: PTI)

A migrant worker from Bihar, who worked as a vendor outside India Gate before the pandemic, has now been hired as a construction worker for the project. He says he has taken up a place on rent nearby because there “6-7 workers staying in one tent at the on-site space provided by the government.”

“I don’t feel comfortable living in a cramped space like that during a pandemic. Anyway, we are not able to maintain proper social distancing while work hours.”
Construction Worker, *Name Hidden on Request

When asked if he thinks the project should be temporarily paused, he said, “Madam, we won’t get to eat then. At least they are giving us money when everything else is shut. I can’t go back to my native village because the situation is worse there.”

Another labourer who travels to the site every day said only those workers who stay far away are staying at the on-site space mostly.

When The Quint went to the camp, most of the labourers were at work but the tents were equipped with a standing fan, a light, and had carpets placed next to each other, filled with bags and beddings of labourers. Before we could find any labourer who stayed on-site, we were stopped by officials of Shapoorji Pallonji, the main contractor executing the project.

We were not allowed to record any photos or video even while standing outside the construction site premises, on the main road.

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What Centre Argued in Delhi HC

The affidavit before the Delhi High Court said the tender for the work, meant for providing public amenities, and pedestrian underpass etc, was awarded to Shapoorji Pallonji and Company, in January 2021. The work was supposed to be completed within 10 months by November 2021.

The Centre said a Covid-compliant facility was installed at the worksite itself, to accommodate the 250 workers who had expressed their willingness to stay put and continue the work on the project. "More importantly it must be noted that pursuant to there being a dedicated medical facility at the concerned work site, the workers will have access to immediate medical attention and proper care which would otherwise have been extremely difficult, in these unprecedented times considering the burden on our existing medical infrastructure," said the affidavit.

The affidavit added that as per para 8 of DDMA order dated April 19, 2021, construction activities during curfew are permitted where labourers are residing on-site.

"In view of the same, it is unequivocally stated that the workers working on the project as of now, are residing at the work site, following social distancing norms as well as other Covid-19 protocols. It is false to suggest that any workers are brought from Sarai Kale Khan camp to the working site on a daily basis or otherwise and consequently, the entire substratum of the case of the Petitioner is erroneous and based on falsehood," the affidavit said.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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