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Delhi: Board Members Flag Concerns Over Govt’s Ambitious Scheme for Construction Workers

At a recent board meeting on ‘Kushal Karmi Yojna’, some members said the scheme will burn a hole in workers’ pockets without making any substantial change in wages.
construction workers

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: ANI

New Delhi: In a board meeting of the Delhi government’s recently floated policy ‘Kushal Karmi Yojna’, concerns were raised by some members of the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (DBOCWWB) that the scheme would dry up the finances of the board without bringing any substantial changes in the wages of construction workers, sources close to matter told NewsClick.

One of the most ambitious projects of the Delhi government, the ‘Kushal Karmi Yojna’, intends to upskill 20,0000 construction workers annually. The 15-day training programme includes an hour-long theory class and seven hours of practical training every day.

The programme aims to train workers in three domains: construction, barbinding and shuttering. At the end of the training, a worker is entitled to receive Rs. 4,200 as wage loss compensation. The project launched its pilot on July 7, 2022 with an enrolment of 200 workers. The pilot batch ended on 26th July.

This project is being headed by the Delhi Skill and Entrepreneurship University (DSEU) along with three partners -- Simplex, NREDCO and India Vision Foundation. The DBOCWWB would pay Rs.12,080 for the 15-day training in three categories: Rs 5,880 to the training provider, Rs 4,200 to workers as wage-loss compensation, and Rs 2,000 to DSEU to implement and assess the programme.

For the 15-day training, the government aims to spend Rs 241.60 crore on 2,00,000 workers in a year. The fund has three components: the highest amount will go to partner companies, which is Rs 117.60 crore (48.67%), Rs 84 crore (34.77%) for workers and Rs. 40 crore (16.56%) to DSEU. In addition to tools and consumables, boarding and lodging facilities for the scheme have not been accounted for, according to meeting agenda documents accessed by Newsclick.

As per the  Modified Model Welfare Scheme guidelines, under the 'Skill Development' section, Kushal Karmi Yojna’s expenditures shouldn't be more than 10% of the construction workers’ cess collected by the welfare boards in the previous year. However, in reality, the expense is more than 964.3% of the permissible level. In 2021-22 (FY) the cess collection by the board was Rs 227 crore. Also, there have been talks about extending the training to three months with an estimated cost of Rs 1,249.60 crores, annually.

The recent specific board meeting took place after one and a half years on August 8. As per the DOBWWB rules 2002 and Section 253, the meeting should take place every two months.

The August 1 meeting, according to some board members, witnessed several concerns being raised. Apart from the overall concerns on this particular scheme, the other issues raised were delays in board meetings, approval and launch of schemes without discussions with the board and issuing labour cards online that were allegedly leading to misuse of funds.

According to some board members, the issues that were neither addressed nor was any entry made in the official logbook. A purported letter accessed by NewsClick sent to the board's secretary confirms the same.

“The board is not engaging in a democratic decision-making process. Currently, all the decisions are being taken single-handily by the deputy CM and board chairman Manish Sisodia. As per the law, the decisions should be discussed in the board meetings before going ahead; however, the rules and regulations are being pushed aside, resulting in a completely undemocratic process and unplanned way of funds. There was not a single board meeting in the last one and a half years despite several reminders,” Ramendra Kumar, board member and general secretary of Delhi Nirmal Majdoor Sangathan told Newsclick.

Arun Kumar Jha, the present secretary of the board, however, insisted that all the decisions were taken in accordance with the rules. In response to a written query by  NewsClick, he said: “The Board already decided and approved for imparting vocational training to construction workers vide Notification dated 2012 and accordingly, provisions were made in Rule 283(A). This, at present, is being implemented as a pilot project by engaging Delhi Skill & Entrepreneurship University as PMU. The entire scheme is being implemented as per the guidelines issued by MoLE from time to time and fulfilling all nodal formalities”.

It is also important to note that the DBOCW Advisory Committee, formed to strengthen the board, has not held a single meeting since its formation three years ago.

“The board is just a casual affair for the government. The policies are being implemented without discussing the budget or outcomes. This policy will not bring fruitful results as it doesn’t deal with the root problem of minimum wage in Delhi,” Thaneshwar Dayal Adigaur , a member of the DBOCW Advisory Committee, told NewsClick.

Adigaur was referring to a Business Standard report: A wait for compensation, better wages, that said that construction workers have not seen any increase in their wages after getting the training. The report further stated that all the workers who participated in the training  were not even getting the minimum wage, as mentioned by the  Delhi government's labour department order.

Girdhari Kewat , one of the trainee workers, told NewsClick that he was happy with the training because he got to learn a lot about his work but admitted that it did not result in an increase in his wages.

The government is yet to release the compensation of the workers who participated in the training. Contrary to the official’s version that the government had not received the bank information of the enrolled workers to proceed with the compensation, Kewat said he had submitted his bank details during the time of the training itself.

“No, my wage has not increased, though I learned a few new things. We also did not receive the Rs.4,200 yet as wage loss for training, I had submitted my bank details during the time of the training only. It’s been a month,” Kewat told NewsClick.

The board was established in 2002, by the then Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit. The primary aim of this board is to assist and strengthen construction workers through different welfare schemes.

As a result of these initiatives, the board's primary funding source is not through the Centre or state government but rather the 1% cess collected from every employer involved in building or other construction works of the state government or a public sector undertaking.  Along with construction workers, the board utilises this fund for different welfare schemes, including social security, health care, maternity leave and pensions, among others in Delhi.

In 2021,  the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on social, general and economic sectors for the year ending March 2019 tabled in the Delhi Assembly was also critical of the board's functioning, especially regarding the fund allocation. The report clearly stated that the board is spending low on welfare activities and board is not functioning as per the laws.

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