Centre asks states to use cess to give money to workers to help them tide over COVID19 turbulence

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Published: March 25, 2020 2:55:24 AM

Since sections of construction workers who migrated from their home states have returned to their respective states in view of Covid-19.

“The amount to be granted to the construction workers may be decided by the respective state governments or Union Territories,” Gangwar wrote to states.“The amount to be granted to the construction workers may be decided by the respective state governments or Union Territories,” Gangwar wrote to states.

The Centre has asked state governments to transfer money to construction workers in distress from the designated cess funds at their disposal. According to an estimate, a total of Rs 52,000 crore is lying with the building and construction workers (BoCW) welfare boards across all states. From these funds, monies could be transferred ‘adequately’ to the accounts of an estimated 3.5 crore registered workers to help them tide over the present turbulent times, in the wake of Covid-19, Union labour minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar told states in an advisory issued on Tuesday.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi had on March 23 written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying, “It is reported that the (BoCW) welfare boards have collected cess amounting to Rs 49,688.07 crore till March 31, 2019. However, only an amount of Rs 19,379.92 crore has been spent.”

As per the Building and other Construction Workers Welfare (BoCW) Cess Act, 1996, all construction activities incurring cost of above Rs 10 lakh are bound to deposit cess at 1% of the cost of construction to the State BoCW Boards. The cess is collected from government/public and private sectors.

Gangwar advised the states to frame a scheme for transfer of adequate funds in the bank accounts of construction workers, through direct benefit transfer.

Since sections of construction workers who migrated from their home states have returned to their respective states in view of Covid-19.

“The amount to be granted to the construction workers may be decided by the respective state governments or Union Territories,” Gangwar wrote to states.

Rajiv Sharma, a representative of the Building Construction Global Union in South Asia that has 56 Indian construction trade unions as its members, said, “Many state governments have already announced financial assistance and we appeal to other state governments to urgently act on Central government’s request with due consultation with other stakeholders including trade unions.”

The construction cess is in the state’s domain: they fix the rates (in some states, it is 2%), collect the cess and also determine the criteria for registration of the beneficiary workers and distribution of the funds collected. In Delhi, a certificate from a registered trade union suffices to get a construction worker registered with the state BoCW, while for a worker in Uttar Pradesh, a builders’ certificate specifying that he was involved with the construction activity for 90 days in the previous 12 months is required.

The state BoCWs, constituted under BoCW Act, 1996, utilise the cess fund for the social security and welfare of such workers. States or the Centre do not provide any fund under the scheme from their corpus.

Following the spread of Covid-19, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab were the first few states to dole out between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,000 immediate relief to the registered construction workers. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have also provided financial help to the construction workers. Himacahal Pradesh has also announced Rs 2,000 assistance on March 23 for registered construction workers.

Every building worker who has completed 18 years of age, but has not completed 60 years of age, and who has been engaged in any building or other construction work for not less than 90 days during the preceding 12 months are eligible for registration as a beneficiary under this Act.

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