Tej Narayan Tharu, 23, died in August when he fell from a high walkway at the £512m al-Wakrah stadium, being built for the 2022 World Cup.
His greiving wife, Renuka Chaudhary, and four-year-old daughter, Sadikshya, cremated his body in southeast Nepal, by the Budhi river. They are now seeking answers about his death from Qatar.
They were in frequent contact with Tharu, until one day when Chaudhary received a call from an unrecognisable Qatari number.
Chaudhary told the Guardian, “A friend of his called and told us he had fallen down. We only found that he had actually died after lots of calls and digging.”
Shocked and upset, Chaudhary took two more calls from Qatar. One from her husband’s employer, Manar General Contracting and another from the supreme committee for delivery and legacy, the body organising the World Cup. She said, “The man from the supreme committee said sorry. I asked him how my husband died. He said they were investigating the death.” she said.
Three months after his death, Tharu’s wife is still waiting for an answer.
The Guardian spoke to a few sources who had direct knowledge of the circumstances that led to Tharu’s death. They said that when the accident occurred, Tharu was carrying a large board along a 35 metre-high walkway at night.
One source said, “He fell off from the walkway … It’s usually considered safe. But people from another company had removed a [floor] plate, creating a gap. He failed to see it and fell through it.”
Another said: “One of the blocks joining the passage was taken without informing workers … creating a gap … Since Tharu was carrying a [board], he couldn’t see it and fell from there.”
The Guardian reported that according to a spokesperson for the supreme committee, lessons have been learned from the death and “corrective measures were implemented across the al-Wakrah site and other supreme committee sites to avoid a repeat”.
New workers are provided with training and time to get used to the conditions before they start working, according to a source with knowledge of the stadium. According to the Guardian, this source also described an environment where conflict and miscommunication can exist between different groups of subcontractors.
“It’s a basic conversation. Sometimes when it’s hard to understand each other, we use sign language,” he told the Guardian.
Chaudhary was told by Manar General Contracting taht she can expect to receive compensation by December. However, Nepal’s ministry of foreign affairs said that it might take a year. “I’m so worried. I have no one to earn money for the family now. How can I pay for our daughter’s education and raise her?”
Tharu’s family has received compensation from two Nepali insurance schemes, however, it is not enough to secure their future.
According to a human resources manager from Manar General Contracting, compensation for Tharu’s family has not been released because, “the case is still ongoing”.
The Guardian repoted that a spokesperson for the supreme committee said: “The supreme committee conducted an independent investigation into the circumstances leading to the tragic death of Mr Tharu … however, the case is currently open with Qatar’s public prosecution service. Once a final verdict has been reached we will be in a position to release more details … and will work with the relevant authorities to ensure that the appropriate funds are released.”
Similar to the response that Tharu’s family have received, the family of Zac Cox, a British construction worker who fell to his death at the Khalifa World Cup stadium in January 2017, have struggled to obtain information about his death. According to another Guardian report, a British coroner investigating it concluded he died because of substandard equipment. He described Cox’s working environment as “downright dangerous”.
Three other al-Wakrah stadium workers died earlier this year, all off site. Two Nepalis, Bhupendra Magar, 35, and Ramsis Mukhiya, 52, died in their labour camp between shifts in May and June, respectively. The Guardian has reported that their families are also still waiting for compensation from their employers in Qatar.
According to Human Right’s Watch, the findings listed on their death certificates do not explain the underlying cause of their deaths. The death certificates stated that Magar died of “acute respiratory failure” and Mukhiya of “acute heart failure”.
Nick McGeehan, an expert on migrant worker rights in the Gulf, told the Guardian, “If we do not know how workers are dying, it is impossible to say if they are work-related deaths or not. We know the risk of heat stress exposure is extreme in the summer months and the protection is demonstrably inadequate, so these deaths raise real concerns.”
Temperature in Qatar reached 47C and only once fell below 40C in June this year.