Recently, a new website has launched, focusing on modern day slavery. Human Goods, run by Seattle-based journalist Christa Hillstrom, takes a “big picture” look at slavery, putting it into global, economic, social and cultural context. We’ve been avidly reading Human Goods, because currently, there are very few media outlets that consistently produce magazine-style, feature length articles on human trafficking, and the movement to eradicate it.
Last week, Human Goods put out a thoughtful article on the 2010 Commonwealth Games, currently taking place in Delhi, India. This is the first time the games have been hosted in India. And, there are hopes that the event can showcase the asian nation as a “world class” country—an economic and cultural powerhouse. But the games have been shrouded in controversy. Child labor has contributed to the construction of stadiums and buildings, and sex trafficking has increased, to meet the demands of foreign tourists coming for the games.
Samir Goswami reports for Human Goods, in an article titled “Let the Games Begin”:
In 2008, the construction site was just a dusty field swarming with hundreds of men, many in tattered clothing and shorts, wearing boots and flimsy hard hats. Hundreds of thousands of visitors would one day go through the New Delhi airport they were rebuilding to attend the 2010 Commonwealth Games, hosted by India for the first time in a sweeping attempt to mold its 17-million-resident capital into a first-rate destination for the sporting fans of the world. For the next two years, the city would rumble with migrants and machines erecting stadiums, metro lines, hotels, and bridges, some of which were doomed to collapse before even being used. But this summer night, a Bobcat was the only piece of heavy machinery on the entire site.
Since the Indian government was spending millions on infrastructure improvements in anticipation of the CWG, my friend had decided to dabble in the construction business. In that typically adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit characteristic of many Delhi-ites, he bought himself a sub-contract to build an exterior wall for one of the new terminals at Indira Gandhi International Airport.
The prevailing wage for an unskilled laborer was 120 Indian Rupees per day ($2.60), and skilled workers earned 40 Rupees (90 cents) more. My friend, who provided about twenty-five of the hundreds of laborers for the section of the wall that he was sub-contracted to build, made a 20 percent profit over his costs. Later, I met the general contractor and asked, if the laborers were offered a better wage and the contractors increased safety precautions—would that not reduce both the financial and human cost of completing the project?
He replied, “Why should I invest in a Bobcat, and pay to train someone to run it, when I can just hire thirty men for half that cost to dig a hole?”
Digging a Hole
Two years later, Delhi finds itself in a hole of its own digging, the depth of which no one is yet quite sure of. From October 3 – 14 New Delhi is hosting the 19th Commonwealth Games, held every four years. Since 1930 the Games have been open to athletes from countries once under the colonial rule of Great Britain. According to the Commonwealth Federation (CGF), “Underlying every decision made by the CGF are three core values: HUMANITY – EQUALITY – DESTINY. These values help to inspire and unite millions of people and symbolize the broad mandate of the CGF within the Commonwealth.”