The court said this will ensure that workers who migrated to their villages are not denied the ex-gratia, offered by the Delhi government during the lockdown, due to lack of physical verification.
The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed the AAP government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare (BOCWW) Board to carry out verification of labourers, for registration or its renewal, via video calls and to seek their physical presence only where that is not possible.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar said this will ensure that workers who migrated to their villages are not denied the ex-gratia, offered by the Delhi government during the lockdown, due to lack of physical verification.
It will reduce their exposure to the pandemic and the recording of the video call can be preserved for future reference, the bench said. The bench said its direction has to be complied with and if the board was unhappy with that it can go in appeal to the Supreme Court.
The court asked the board to ensure adequate publicity of the location of its registration camps as a lot of workers had not appeared at these camps for registration. It directed the Board to publish locations of the camps in the vernacular newspapers in the national capital and to ensure sufficient advance notice is given to a worker being called for verification at the camps.
The court’s directions came while hearing a PIL by social activist Sunil Kumar Aledia seeking registration of all construction workers here under the BOCWW Act so that they can get the benefit of the relief package/ex-gratia of Rs 5,000 per month being provided to each labourer during the lockdown.
Aledia, in his plea filed through advocate Shiven Varma, has contended that only a small section out of the over 10 lakh workers in the city are registered under the laws regulating their welfare and service conditions and thus, a huge chunk of the labourers are not getting benefits actually meant for them.
During the hearing of the plea, advocate Shyel Trehan, representing one of the interveners in the matter, told the court that the Board was rejecting applications for renewal where registrations have been lapsed for more than two years.
She said under the rules, only a registration which has lapsed twice can be rejected, but the Board was interpreting iit incorrectly and rejecting applications for renewal where the registration has been lapsed for more than two years.
She also said that there was a problem with issuance of fresh mobile numbers, user id and password to the workers, from the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) office, for logging onto the e-district portal to upload their applications and documents as the SDM office was over burdened with COVID-19 related duties.
The bench agreed with Trehan’s contention and told the Board that only registrations which have lapsed twice can be rejected.
The court also directed the Delhi government to ensure that work with regard to issuance of fresh mobile numbers, user ids and passwords is not impeded in any manner due to the SDM office being burdened by COVID duties.
It directed the government to ensure adequate arrangements are made to ensure the mobile numbers, user ids and passwords are issued without any hindrance.
On the connectivity issues being faced at the various camps, leading to delay in uploading worker details on to the e-district portal, the bench said the Board ought to consider having its own portal and servers instead of depending on that of the Delhi government.
It said that the Delhi government’s e-district portal caters to various departments and therefore, the Board should work on having its own system in place.
The bench said the Board was “possessed of sufficient funds in excess of Rs 3,200 crore” and therefore, there was no dearth of resources to set up its own system.
It directed the Board to put in place its own system and to file a status report on the next date indicating progress made in that regard.
With the direction, the bench listed the matter for further hearing on September 25.
Aledia, in his petition, has contended that despite collection of over Rs 2,000 crore under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act in the names of lakhs of workers, only around 37,127 construction labourers who are registered are getting the benefits. It has also claimed that there has been gross under-registration of construction workers in the national capital since 2015.