On Mayawati’s dream project, workers denied minimum wages

Lucknow, December 16 These are the most prestigious projects of the Uttar Pradesh government — a tribute to Dalit icons from a government that symbolises Dalit empowerment — and yet, the state government seems blissfully unaware regarding the laws made for the welfare of the workers who are working here in miserable conditions and not even getting the statutory minimum wages.

Thousands of stone cutters are working day and night to give shape to the Ambedkar Memorial Park at Gomti Nagar and the Kanshiram Memorial on Kanpur Road. At any given time, the vast Ambedkar Memorial site is enveloped in clouds of dust. Hundreds of men can be seen giving shapes to blocks of pink sandstone — their faces, bodies, all covered with dust. Not one has a mask or safety glasses, which are mandatory under the ‘Buildings and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996.

Said Sumer Singh (name changed), a worker at Kanshiram Memorial, “No one has given us masks and glasses.” Chustey Ram, a stone cutter at Ambedkar Memorial, said that he had signed a slip saying he has received a mask. “But till date, I haven’t got any.”

Worse, the workers are not even getting minimum wages. Under the Minimum Wages Act, a daily wage labourer should be paid Rs 100. But here, most labourers are paid Rs 55 to Rs 70, with those working for more than 16 hours paid around Rs 130. Srikant, who is working at Ambedkar Memorial, says he works 14 hours-a-day and gets Rs 70.

The contractors refuse to comment on daily wages. One of them, called ‘Bhaiyaji’, at Kanshiram Memorial, was annoyed when one asked about the workers’ wages and welfare. “It is as per government rule,” came his curt reply.

S Prasad at Ambedkar Memorial, a contractor who has brought 700 labourers from Rajasthan, said, “We give them anything between Rs 85 and Rs 100. We do not let them work for more than 8 hours.” On providing safety glasses and masks, he said, “These people are accustomed to work like this, they have no problem.”

Officials are unaware of the violations taking place at these sites. The common response is “we haven’t received any complaint”.

And these include officials of the Rajkiya Nirman Nigam, the agency executing these projects. Said General Manager (Commercial) V K Yadav, who is managing the affairs at Ambedkar Memorial, “So far, we haven’t received any complaint from the Labour Department. It is their job, not ours.”

Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Shailesh Krishna was also unaware of the state of affairs.

“We will ask all departments concerned to ensure that all norms related to the welfare of the labourers are followed properly.”

Minister for Labour Badshah Singh, too, did not know whether law was being followed, but said he would personally inspect the sites. “I will ensure that there is no exploitation of the labourers.”


The Ambedkar Memorial is being developed by renovating the existing Ambedkar Memorial. So secretive is the government about these memorials that the LDA, which is supervising the projects, has refused to give a copy of the blueprint in response to an application filed before the State Information Commissioner M A Khan by the Congress RTI cell chief Shailendra Singh. The commission had summoned Chief Secretary P K Mishra, but his counsel said he had nothing to do with the project. At one of the hearings, Khan remarked whether the government was planning to build another Taj Mahal. At this, a LDA official said that it was indeed a memorial like the Taj. An allocation of Rs 300 crore was made for the project, but the actual expenditure may go up to Rs 800 crore, officials say. Kanshiram Memorial will have a giant statue of the BSP founder, along with a museum on his life, and a few statues of elephants (the BSP symbol). Around Rs 253 crore will be spent on it.

On Mayawati’s dream project, workers denied minimum wages