Welfare funds for workers rotting in state coffers

Welfare funds for workers rotting in state coffers

By NAVTAN KUMAR | NEW DELHI | 18 June, 2016
Only 21% of the total cess collected for the welfare of workers has been spent.

The states have not been implementing the welfare funds meant for building and construction workers in the country, with many of them spending only 21% of the cess collected in the last four years on 2.15 crore workers.

The Centre brought “The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act” in 1996 to levy and collect 1% to 2% cess on the cost of construction incurred by builders to augment the resources of the building and other construction workers’ welfare boards, which were subsequently constituted in every state.

As per the provisions of the Act, every building and construction worker is registered as a beneficiary by the respective state construction workers’ welfare board. The welfare schemes include benefits like marriage gift, maternity gift, fatal accident relief, disability relief, hospitalisation relief, funeral expenses, natural death relief, skill development training, etc.

According to the figures provided by Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, 2.15 crore workers are registered with these boards across the country. Madhya Pradesh leads the list with 24.9 lakh workers, followed by Tamil Nadu (23.97 lakh) and Andhra Pradesh (17.97 lakh). It is believed that not more than 25% of the total construction workers are registered with these boards mainly because of lack of awareness.

As per the provision, the state governments collect the cess and then transfer that to these boards. According to the figures, Rs 25,477 crore has been collected by various state governments from April 2011 to December 2015. Out of this, the state boards spent only Rs 5,371 crore, which is just 21% of the total cess collected. The figures indicate that the states which collected the highest amount of cess spent the least on the welfare of the workers. Maharashtra collected Rs 3,558 crore in three years, but spent just 6% of this amount. Karnataka collected Rs 3,131 crore, but spent only 5%. Uttar Pradesh collected 13%, Haryana 4.5%, Delhi 8.6%, Madhya Pradesh 34%, Tamil Nadu 32.6% and Kerala 94.7%.

However, the West Bengal and Kerala governments have shown greater concern for the workers. In West Bengal, the government collected Rs 149.91 crore and spent Rs 136.78 crore, whereas in Kerala, the government collected Rs 1,168.44 crore and spent 1,105.96 during this period. Dattatreya said the Centre has been constantly reminding the state governments to take steps to accelerate the registration of construction workers.

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