Bricks for Bread and Milk

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Bring Your Child to Work Day: In New Delhi there are upwards of 100 construction projects underway in preparation for the 2010 Commonwealth Games scheduled to take place from Oct. 4 to 13. These projects -- ranging from several new stadiums to a new international airport terminal -- are drawing vast numbers of migrant workers from all over India to provide the extra labor needed. Contractors, already behind schedule, are taking advantage of lax labor laws and coercing their employees to bring their children to work alongside them, promising payments of bread and milk. Above an Indian girl carries a brick at a construction site in front of the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Feb. 3.

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All Work and No Play: When it comes to child labor laws, little headway has been made on enforcement. In fact, some, like the UNICEF-sponsored authors of "What Works for Working Children," have made the argument that child labor is better than the alternatives: no work at all or prostitution. Above, Indian children struggle to shovel rocks in front of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Jan. 30.

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No Child Left Behind: Here, a young girl drags a rock-laden basket at a construction site in late January. Indian officials are expecting 6,000 athletes and 200,000 spectators to flood the city for the games. Planners have good reason to be concerned that the capital city will not be prepared to host the Commonwealth Games by the official October start date -- not a single venue, from the velodrome to the massive metro system expansion, has been completed -- except for a refurbished hockey stadium.

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Pipe Dream: Struggling laborers with little recourse to improve their situation must rely on government intervention. This week, the High Court of Delhi began cracking down on the national government over alleged failures to provide legally mandated benefits to workers involved with the construction of venues related to the games. Here, an Indian woman seals drainage pipes with cement in New Delhi on Feb. 1.

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When the Going Gets Tough: India is spending at least $2.26 billion to ready the New Delhi for the October games. At construction sites like the one above, laborers are making well below the standard minimum wage, and working children receive nothing but a single meal. Here, an Indian boy walks with his mother under the shadow of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium back to their temporary dwelling after having worked a full day on a drainage system on Feb. 3.

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Out in the Cold: Many of these child laborers and their families have little respite from a long day's work, taking shelter in temporary tent-like structures that provide only minimal protection from the elements -- erected just outside the work site. One workers' group said: "They live, sleep, and ... eat where they work." Winter temperatures in New Delhi may not seem too chilly, rarely dipping below freezing, but the total lack of adequate shelter and sufficient clothing pose significant risks. Above, a woman is greeted by her family upon returning from work at one of the construction sites on Feb. 1.

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The Cost of Beautification: Taking cues from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Indian government is determined to show a vibrant, clean, and modern face to the world. But the "sprucing up" comes at a clear human cost: Almost half of the city's homeless shelters have been destroyed in order to clean up the city and clear room for infrastructure, putting over 100,000 onto the streets in the middle of winter. The razing of slums has added to the number of homeless, and dozens have died from exposure to the cold, literally freezing to death. Above, a woman cooks dinner outside her makeshift home on Feb. 3.

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Turning a Blind Eye: There are tens of millions (some say over 100 million) of child laborers in India -- the second-highest number in the world. The practice is officially banned, but violations are rarely investigated, and the pervasive use of child labor in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games has only exacerbated the problem. Here, three children rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) wait at the Khajuri Khas police station in New Delhi on Nov. 4, 2009.



Walk the Line: A young girl performs tightrope-walking road shows, known as Mothari-ka-khel, for money on July 19, 2009 in Chennai, India. India's widespread poverty -- 800 million Indians live on less than $2 a day -- leaves many poor families with no other choice than to put their school-age children to work. But what will happen to these migrants and their families after the construction ebbs, the projects run dry, and the games end?

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