SC expresses worry over whether ₹37,000 crore collected as cess will actually reach construction workers
With over ₹37,000 crore collected as cess to be used for the welfare of 2.8 crore registered construction workers across the country, the Supreme Court has a new worry — whether the huge sum of money will really be used for the benefit of labourers in the high-risk and hazardous construction industry mostly controlled by private companies.
The Social Justice Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Madan B. Lokur has been closely monitoring the government over the past two years on the issue. It had once, in a hearing in 2015, vented about how “ridiculous” it was that thousands of crores collected as construction cess for the benefit of building workers ends up at mercy of “some babus”.
On Friday, the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment informed the Bench that the number of workers registered under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1996 has increased from 2.15 crore to 2.8 crore. The cess collected, which includes the hard-earned savings of residential flat buyers, has also seen a marked hike from ₹25,477 crore to ₹37,482 crore.
The Ministry reported to the Court that the utilisation of the cess amount for the welfare of workers has also increased from ₹5,371 crore to ₹9,491 crore. All the figures were as of June 30, 2017.
The Ministry said that a national portal to create awareness on schemes for workers is under construction. NGOs would be able to access the portal to help workers.
“We are concerned with a huge number of construction workers and we are also concerned with the very huge amounts that have been collected. We are of the view that the entire matter should be looked at in a positive and constructive manner by the Government so that the benefits can be passed on to the construction workers, who are the real beneficiaries,” the SC expressed its apprehension.
Directing the Union to carve out a plan in consultation with the States within a month, the apex court urged the government to involve NGOs actively, that is, even before the national portal is set up.
The lack of implementation of the law was brought to fore in a PIL filed by the NGO National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour.