A brand new terminal may be coming up at the international airport in the Indian capital to decongest growing air traffic but workers at the construction site are complaining of poor sanitation, long duty hours and, above all, deadly mosquitoes. Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), a joint consortium of the Airports Authority of India (AAI), Hyderabad-based GMR, Frankfurt Airport and Malaysian Airport, is developing a new terminal, T3.
It is expected to be Asia's largest runway and taxiway - with an estimated investment of Rs.300 billion (approx $7.6 billion) till 2026 - and will handle international flight operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
DIAL has hired more than 8,500 workers for the construction work by awarding a sub-tender to a well-known company, Larsen & Toubro (L&T). The authorities have constructed temporary residential colonies for 7,000 workers at the new airport site, but the labourers told IANS they were not being provided good food or proper sanitation facilities.
"We start work at eight in the morning and end up only after eight in the evening. Then we cover a distance of almost three kilometres, a rough and dangerous path, on foot to reach the makeshift rooms," said Rambabu, a worker who has come from West Bengal's Malda district to work here.
The path they have to cross is the dug-up area around the existing airport. Heavy machinery - road rollers and cranes - and men work there continuously in shifts and no one is allowed to enter the site. Workers have been given fluorescent jackets and hard caps to prevent any untoward incidents.
"In each room, shared by at least 10-12 labourers, we have to struggle with mosquitoes. We have complained of this to our contractor and other officials concerned but no one is bothered. Fortunately, no one has fallen ill from mosquito-borne diseases," Rambabu told IANS at the construction site.
According to state health authorities, Delhi has reported nearly 100 cases of dengue this year. Shambu, who has come from Bihar to work here, said: "The toilets are in bad shape, no one cleans them and they stink badly. Sometime we have to defecate in open areas." He also complained of poor quality food. "The contractor responsible for providing food is not fulfilling his promises. So we take Rs. 300 from him to buy our own food and other stuff."
Salimuddin, another worker form Bihar, told IANS: "We have been given no wages. The contractor says he will give us Rs.5,000 only after completion of 50 days of work, that is Rs.100 per day. He also says the money will be given to our families in Bihar, but not to us here."
DIAL denied the allegations.
I. Prabhakara Rao, DIAL's chief operating officer, said: "We are not aware of such problems. We have constructed colonies with all the required basic facilities for them. Our officials regularly spray mosquito-killing medicines near their houses.
"But if the workers are still complaining of problems, we will take up the issue with the construction company, L&T. All their problems will be resolved in no time," he added.
The names of the workers have been changed to protect their identities. The new terminal they are building is expected to cater to nearly 37 million passengers by 2010 and 100 million by 2030 against a current flow of around 20.4 million passengers.