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Strengthen Claim Redressal Mechanism Within Construction Workers’ Welfare Board: Unions to Delhi Govt.

Over 94% funds meant for the welfare of labourers associated with construction activities in the city remain unused between 2002-19 period- CAG in its latest report.
Construction workers Delhi.

New Delhi: Days after Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) flagged “poor utilisation” of the cess collected for ensuring welfare to construction workers in the national capital, trade unions target the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government for not doing enough to strengthen claim redressal mechanism within the workers’ welfare board.

“Thousands of claims of the workers remain pending in Delhi which is the major reason behind the underutilisation of funds meant for providing social security, healthcare, and maternity benefits among others, to the construction workers,” Siddheshwar Shukla of Rajdhani Bhavan Nirman Kamgar Union (RBNKU)  told Newsclick in a telephone interview on Thursday.

Over 94 per cent meant for the welfare of labourers associated with construction activities in the city remained unused since the constitution of the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (DBOCWWB) in September the CAG said in its report based on figures available till 2019.

The said report was presented by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the Labour portfolio, during the ongoing monsoon session in Delhi Assembly on Tuesday. According to it, During the years 2002-19, the Board received Rs. 3,273.64 crores as interest on cess collected and registration fees- out of which it spent only Rs. 182.88 crores on the welfare of construction workers.

DBOCWWB is a statutory body mandated for ensuring the welfare of construction workers. Active membership of a worker with the welfare board is the prerequisite to claiming the benefits mandated by the latter. The benefits for a registered worker with the board include medical assistance and paid maternity leaves among others.

Among the reasons that the statutory auditory cited for low spending on welfare activities by DBOCWWB include an absence of any survey for identification of construction workers in Delhi for improving the registration of numbers of workers.

“As of March 2019, only 17,339 (1.7 per cent) out of an estimated 10 lakh construction workers were registered with the Board, thereby depriving 98 per cent of the workers of the benefits of welfare schemes of the Board.” Even in the case of registered workers, the benefits provided were limited as there was no outgo on six out of the 15 welfare schemes implemented by the Board,” pointed the report, according to news agency PTI.

Concurring with the observations, Shukla on Thursday added the procedures that a construction worker has to follow to avail any benefits are “also very lengthy and tedious.” “There is also a lack of inter-departmental coordination between the different administrative arms of the Delhi Government which result in no adequate implementation of the welfare measures for workers,” he added.

“Even as the figures of registration have largely improved in Delhi after the pandemic, the issue with pending claims with the Board prevails,” said Thaneshwar Dayal Adigaur of Delhi Asangathit Nirman Mazdoor Union (DANMU) on Thursday. After being pulled up by the High Court earlier in 2020, two drives to register construction workers were launched by the AAP government in the backdrop of a pandemic-induced lockdown.

Now that the issue of under-utilisation has been flagged by CAG, the Delhi Government will push for spending of the funds, believes Adigaur. “However, that does not mean that funds collected are spent on expenses that are not meant for the welfare of the workers,” he said, highlighting that the administrative expenses of the Board are already much more than the prescribed limit of 5 per cent of the total expenditure. It was 14.42 per cent in 2016-17 and 12.20 per cent in 2018-19, according to the CAG report.

Incidentally, both Shukla and Adigaur are also directly associated with the operations of DBOCWWB, with the former being a member of the welfare board in Delhi, while the latter is the board’s advisory committee member.

“The new CAG report must be an eye-opener for the AAP government which must look seriously in the direction of how to improve the prevailing difficulties that do not allow construction workers in Delhi to enjoy welfare benefits,” Adigaur said.

Shukla, on Thursday, pressed for further decentralisation of the offices of DBOCWWB in the city. “Currently, there are only 9 board offices in Delhi, even as the requirement is at least 20,” he said.

He added that going forward the  DBOCWWB must strengthen its skill enhancement training programmes for the construction workers and must also consider using its fund in augmenting the number of crèche facilities at construction sites for women workers.

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