Construction cess fund: States so far transfer Rs 4,313 crore to workers hit by Covid

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Published: June 4, 2020 2:30 AM

In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Centre on March 26 advised states to “adequately” transfer money from the fund directly into the accounts of an estimated 3.5 crore registered workers.

Sharma said acting on the advisory issued by the Centre, 21 states have so far transferred amounts ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 to the bank accounts of workers from the designated cess funds at their disposal.Sharma said acting on the advisory issued by the Centre, 21 states have so far transferred amounts ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 to the bank accounts of workers from the designated cess funds at their disposal.

States have till June 2 disbursed Rs 4,313 crore, or just around 14% of the Rs 31,000-crore corpus lying unutilised at March-end under the designated cess fund for building and construction workers, as a one-time support to 2.3 crore beneficiaries to help them tide over the crisis arising out of Covid-19.

In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Centre on March 26 advised states to “adequately” transfer money from the fund directly into the accounts of an estimated 3.5 crore registered workers.

“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,” said Rajeev Sharma, a representative of the Building Construction Global Union in South Asia.

Sharma said acting on the advisory issued by the Centre, 21 states have so far transferred amounts ranging from Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 to the bank accounts of workers from the designated cess funds at their disposal.

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.

Sharma said the labour ministry should look at providing portability of the registration to workers, mostly migrant, under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996 so that they do not lose the benefit as they move from one state to another.

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. 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.

Trade union sources said Delhi has transferred the highest amount of Rs 5,000 each to the registered construction workers, followed by Punjab and Kerala at Rs 3,000 each. Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra have offered Rs 2,000 each while Odisha is learnt to have given one-time benefit of Rs 1,500 each to registered workers.

Many states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have also offered free ration for one to three months in varied quantities to such workers.

Most of the 21 states have offered Rs 1,000 cash benefit to each worker.

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