New Delhi: A report prepared by members of a non-profit organisation along with trade unionists, who assessed the ground realities of the registration drive to enrol construction workers with the government-administered welfare board on Monday, hinted that the ambitious exercise led by the Delhi government lacks sincerity.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the labour portfolio in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, on Monday launched a month-long drive for registering labourers engaged in construction work in the national capital with the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (DBOCW).
This came six months after a similar attempt to register construction labourers, so that they are able to receive government assistance, was made in August last year, in the backdrop of a pandemic-induced lockdown that had left many of these daily-wage workers in lurch as construction activities were brought to a grinding halt.
The initiative, which the AAP government has begun only after being pulled up by the High Court, was reportedly marred by software glitches and other challenges that had snarled the whole registration process.
That no lessons were learnt from the problems that were faced last time, rued the trade unionists active in the construction sector on Tuesday. The leaders said that while they welcome the announcement, it was not enough as the process still lacked “sincere efforts” to register construction workers.
To begin with, not all those who are required to assist a construction worker at the registration camps are “trained” to do so, complained Thaneshwar Dayal Adigaur of the Nirman Mazdoor Adhikar Abhiyan (NMAA).
Adigaur, as part of a three-member delegation of Construction Workers’ Rights Campaign, visited two registration camps on Monday in West Delhi. “The staff at the camp is not trained to know the technical and legal aspects of the construction workers’ registration. Most of them were not engaged with the construction welfare board, and hence, they knew little about the sector as well,” he told Newsclick, over phone.
Even the non-visibility of the camps is an issue with no banner being put up to locate them, Adigaur added. There are total 45 camps across the national capital this time, opened since March 22, where registration, renewal, or verification services will be offered.
“The camps that we visited also didn’t even had basic arrangements like web cameras,” he further alleged. A web camera is needed for the registration since the process also involves recording data online, along with a photo verification of those who are registering.
On Monday, by 4 pm, only 42 workers were verified at the camp that was set up at DLF Green Capital City Site Shivji Marg, Moti Nagar; while, only four workers were registered till 4.30 pm at the one at Rajeha Builders’ (DDA) under-construction site in Shadipur, claimed the report that was prepared based on the inspection by the said delegation.
Avinash Kumar of the Centre for Holistic Development (CHD), who prepared the report, told Newsclick that even though Monday was only the first day for the process, the motive of assessing the ground realities was only to suggest the AAP government how it can “smoothen” the whole process.
“We are still receiving complaints from many camps that the server of the government website is down and that the whole process is taking a lot of time. If the speed and efficiency of the process is not increased then not many of the construction workers will be able to get registered,” said Kumar.
There are an estimated 10 lakh construction workers in Delhi, out of whom 2.12 lakh are currently in the government’s “registration network”, Sisodia said on Monday. “Out of the 2.12 lakh, 29,000 workers need to renew their annual membership with the construction welfare board,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
Sunil Kumar Aledia, founder member, CHD, said that the Delhi government has not addressed the challenges that were faced earlier. In May, Aledia had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking registration of all construction workers under the welfare board. The next date of the hearing is on March 22. “We will submit before the court of what we find as the challenges that could have been addressed by the AAP government before or during the ongoing registration,” he said.
Siddheshwar Shukla of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions-backed Rajdhani Bhavan Nirman Kamgar Union, who is also a member of the DBOCW, told Newsclick that in the last board meeting, a recommendation to involve the construction sector unions in the registration drive was made, but to no avail as yet. “There are 138 unions in Delhi in construction sector and without their engagement, it is next to impossible to ensure registration of all the construction workers,” he said.
DBOCW is a statutory body with a corpus of over Rs. 3,200 crore. Active membership of a construction worker with the welfare board is the prerequisite to claim the benefits mandated by the it. The benefits for a registered worker with the board include medical assistance and paid maternity leaves among others.