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Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 crore”, Pandya added.
Pandya complained, most of the amount spent on the cess has gone to areas not directly related with construction workers’ welfare. Thus, Rs 39.75 crore has been spent on the Shramik Annapurna Yojna, seeking to provide cheap cooked food to construction workers.
This is followed by Rs 27.48 crore is spent construction workers’ education, Rs 9.80 crore on their coaching classes, Rs 6.41 crore on Dhanvantari Rath provididing mobile health facilities at construction facilities, and Rs 5.43 crore on temporary shelter.
As against this, the board has spent just about Rs 2.10 crore on pregnant women during child birth, Rs 66 lakh as emergency help, Rs 39.53 lakh for the Nanaji Deshmukh housing, and so on. \
“There appears to be huge corruption in the disbursement of funds”, Pandya alleged. “Spending on education and coaching is all diverted to private agencies. Again, while private parties have been paid Rs 9.80 crore on educating workers about safety norms, they are not being paid the stipend, as required”, he said.
“Similarly, while the government is spending huge sums on providing cheap food under the Annapurna Yojna, most workers do not benefit from it”, he added.

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