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Cess Fund: Rs 4,957 crore given to 2 crore construction workers hit hard by lockdown

The labour ministry had earlier estimated that around Rs 31,000 crore was lying unspent with the building and other construction workers (BoCW) welfare boards across states.

Cess Fund: Rs 4,957 crore given to 2 crore construction workers hit hard by lockdown
Punjab has given R 6,000 each to 2.89 lakh workers.

States and Union Territories in the country have so far disbursed Rs 4,957 crore or just around 16% of the Rs 31,000-crore corpus that was lying unutilised at March-end in the construction workers’ cess fund to lend one-time support to about 2 crore workers hit hard by cessation of activities due to Covid-19 pandemic.

In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Centre on March 24 advised states to ‘adequately’ transfer money from the funds directly into the accounts of an estimated 3.5 crore registered construction workers.

“About 1.75 crore transactions were done directly into the bank accounts of the workers through direct benefit transfer (DBT). Apart from cash benefits ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 6,000 per worker during the lockdown, some of the states have also provided food and ration to their workers,” labour ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have given Rs 1,000 each to 33.58 lakh and 22 lakh workers each, Rajasthan transferred Rs 2,500 each to around 21 lakh workers while Odisha spent Rs 1,500 crore for 21 lakh workers. Punjab has given R 6,000 each to 2.89 lakh workers.

The labour ministry had earlier estimated that around Rs 31,000 crore was lying unspent with the building and other construction workers (BoCW) welfare boards across states. The construction cess is in the states’ domain: they fix rates, collect the cess and also determine the criteria for registration of beneficiary workers and distribution of funds collected.

Rajeev Sharma, a representative of the Building Construction Global Union in South Asia, said the number of beneficiaries vis-à-vis the actual number of registered construction workers shows that states did not accord due priority to the cause of the workers.

Acknowledging that some building and other construction workers are still out of the range, the labour ministry said that is mainly due to reasons such as their migratory nature, changing work-sites, low levels of literacy and awareness.

“In order to address the issue, the Union ministry has planned to launch a Mission Mode Project to fast track the registration of the left-out workers, portability of benefits, universalisation of social security schemes on health insurance through Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY ), life & disability cover through Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) & Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY), life-long pension during old age through Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan Yojana (PM-SYM) and provision of transit accommodations in large cities,” the labour ministry said.

As per the BoCW Act, all construction activities incurring cost of above Rs 10 lakh are bound to deposit cess at 1% (in some states, 2%) of the cost of construction to the state BoCW board. The cess is collected from the government/public and private sectors.

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First published on: 24-06-2020 at 06:45 IST