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Rhetoric and Reality! Construction workers’ welfare on back burner

Only Rs182.88 cr spent on welfare schemes out of Rs3,273.64 cr received as Cess

Rhetoric and Reality! Construction workers’ welfare on back burner

Gaps In System

  • Absence of planning and budgeting
  • Non-maintenance of District Master Register
  • Non-deposit of Cess deducted by the Delhi Municipal Corporation
  • Non-availability of details of construction cost

New Delhi: During and after the successful rescue mission to rescue the 41 workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand, politicians showed a great concern for construction workers. Some leaders even glorified workers as ‘shramveers’ and ‘karmaveers,’ whereas the usual terms in usage are ‘shramiks’ and ‘majdoors.’ But reports prepared by the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) show that vocal concern rarely translates into welfare for construction workers, who are at the bottom of pyramid.

It has certainly not translated in at least in Delhi, which is ruled by the Aam Aadmi Party. The CAG audited the functioning of the Delhi Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, whose ex-officio Chairman is the Labour Minister, for 2016-19 fiscal.

“During the period 2002-19, the Board received an amount of Rs3,273.64 crore as Cess, interest earned on the Cess, and registration fee, against which it had incurred expenditure of only Rs182.88 crore on welfare schemes. Hence, only 5.59 per cent of the Cess collected was spent on providing benefits to the workers,” the CAG report said.

The Central government enacted the Building and Other Construction Workers’ (BOCW) Act in 1996 with the aim of providing safety, health, and welfare measures for the benefit of building and other construction workers through levy/collection of Cess, and also framed the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Rules (Cess Rules) in 1998.

The provisions of the Act are applicable to “every establishment which employs, or had employed on any day of the preceding twelve months, ten or more building workers in any building or other construction works.”

Further, the Act provides that every building worker in the age group of 18 to 60 years who was not a member of any welfare fund established under any law and had completed a period of ninety days of service during the preceding twelve months as a construction worker in the State could be registered as a beneficiary.

The Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board was constituted in September 2002 for implementation of various welfare schemes.

The CAG found a variety of lacunae in the functioning of the Welfare Board. These include: absence of planning and budgeting for implementation of the Act; non-maintenance of District Master Register by the Cess Collectors; difference in figures of the Cess amount as per records of Cess Collectors, districts and Board Headquarters; non-deposit of Cess deducted by the Delhi municipal corporations; non-availability of the details of cost of construction; non-availability of records relating to assessment of Cess.

Ravi Shanker Kapoor
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