‘Absence of effective checks and balances is leading to this’

Lacunae in welfare schemes has paved way for the misuse of the maternity benefit extended to women construction workers in the State.

The labour department officials said that the women construction workers were availing the maternity benefits immediately after registering with the department.

The Labour department gave away a cheque of Rs. 5,000 to a woman, who registered on the March 14, 2011, and gave birth to a child on March 26, 2011. Yet in another case, a construction labourer availed benefit within a fortnight of registration. She got registered on September 13 and date of delivery was September 28.

Many of the construction workers had availed of the benefits within a span of two to four months of registration, sources say.

The State Government has not set up any date for releasing the benefits while evolving the scheme. While in neighbouring Karnataka maternity assistance is provided only after one year from the time of registration through the Karnataka Welfare Board, the Andhra Pradesh Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board has not included such a provision in the scheme being implemented here, officials say.

“It’s true that the cess being collected by the Department belongs to the construction workers, but the absence of effective checks and balances is leading to misuse of the welfare schemes,” says an official, on the condition of anonymity. The role of trade unions cannot be ruled out in inducing the women, who were in advance stage of pregnancy, to register with the Board. Most of them are illiterate and blindly follow the suggestions of union leaders, he adds.

In Krishna district alone, maternity benefits were provided to 165 women after the scheme was introduced. More than 15.36 lakh construction workers (both men and women) were registered with the Board across the state so far.

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