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Rs 52,000 crore funds lying 'idle': Plea to pay 50% wages to construction workers

By Our Representative
Three civil rights groups, two of them working in Gujarat, have asked Union minister for labour and employment Santosh Gangwar to ensure that the Government of India should begin using “the unspent fund of the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare (BOCWW) Cess Fund”, amounting to Rs 52,000 crore, as emergency financial package.
A representation to the minister signed by senior activists of the Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P), Bandhkam Majdoor Sangthan, Ahmedabad, and the Akhil Gujarat Shramyogi Kadar Union, said, the countrywide lockdown announced to arrest the community transmission of Covid-19 “has pushed the unorganized sector workers into dire economic crisis”, adding, the amount should be used to pay 50% of the minimum wages to those registered with different BOCWW boards.
Claiming to work for the social security of the unorganized sector workers, migrants and mine workers for the last 25 years, the groups said, different state governments and Union territories, including Gujarat, have been collecting one to two percent of cess of the value of construction projects under the BOCWW Cess Act, 1996 (excluding the cost of land).
However, regretting that only a “minor percent of the money so collected has been utilized so far”, the representation said, this has led to the accumulation of “unspent balances year after year”, and as per the latest information, “the unspent BOCWW Fund amounts to Rs 52,000 crore.”
Directions to CMs, lieutenant governors to utilize the BOCWW board funds for workers' welfare is yet to see a response
Regretting that the Union minister’s directions to different chief ministers and lieutenant governors of Union territories to utilize the BOCWW board funds for social welfare and for extending the emergency financial assistance package for such workers “yet to see a response”, the representation said, all workers who have been registered with the boards should be allocated “50% of the minimum wages as a subsistence unemployment allowance for next three months” through direct benefit transfer mode in their bank accounts.
The representation further said, “The labour supply contractors often do not register the entire workforce under them in order to bypass labour laws such as Provident Fund Act”, insisting, “The situation that has arisen now demands that all the construction workers need to be brought in to the social welfare benefits of BOCWW Boards.”
Hence, it suggested, the boards should issue directives to “cess collecting officers to get the list of all such unregistered construction workers from the licensed labour contractors operating as per the Labour Contractors Act, 1970 and register themselves as beneficiaries under respective BOCWW Boards.”
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* Rebbapragada Ravi, chairperson, MM&P; Ashok Shrimali, secretary-general, MM&P; Lalsingh Pargi, Akhil Gujarat Shramyogi Kadar Union; and Vipul Pandya, general secretary, Bandhkam Majdoor Sangathan

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