Terming the collection of R27,000 crore by state governments for the welfare of construction workers as “ridiculous,” the Supreme Court on Friday said that the money is spent on administration and advertisement and hardly anything reaches the poor.
A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur while hearing a PIL by National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, an NGO, observed that “thousands of crores are collected but money is spent on advertisement and administration. The money for poor is used by some babus. It is ridiculous… if state governments are not utilising funds it would be better not to collect them.”
Earlier, the apex court had pulled up the Centre and various state governments for failing to disburse money to construction workers and using the same for their welfare.
Amicus curiae Vivek Tankha told the court that R27,000 crore has been collected so far by the state governments.
He had earlier argued that three states—Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh—and the national capital territory of Delhi had collected over R1,000 crore under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996, but had only disbursed minimal amounts to workers. In February, the situation in Maharashtra had come under the court’s scrutiny.
The Court is monitoring the implementation of the social welfare act, and it had earlier directed all the states to set up a board to frame and implement welfare schemes for the benefit of construction workers.
As per the 1996 law, 1% of the cost of all government construction is to be collected as cess by states, to spend on the welfare of construction workers. While around R27,000 crore has been collected by the states so far, Rajasthan has spent only R65.44 crore from the collected fund of R898.3 crore, UP has spent R195 crore from R1671 crore and Delhi has spent R39.72 crore from R1448 crore.
The court also directed the Delhi government to return the R 2.69 crore spent on advertisements from the welfare fund. This amount was spent on advertisement from 2005 to March this year.
After the UP government argued that it will submit the list of beneficiaries, the bench said that “UP is claiming thousands of beneficiaries but can’t name even 10.” It also asked the UP government to submit the list of beneficiaries with addresses, which will be verified by the court.
The Court has also directed the union labour secretary to coordinate with state governments and submit the plan for utilising the welfare funds.