Labour Department urges government to constitute an expert committee

In the run up to the State bifurcation, several government departments are caught in the whirlpool of how to divide manpower as well as other resources if the legislation was passed in Parliament.

Of course, the issue of manpower division has been addressed to an extent, but officials in some departments have no clue on how to distribute the funds with them, especially when the source was not clear. Take for instance a corpus of Rs.1,300 crore created under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996, by the Labour Department.

Labour officials have requested the government to constitute a committee of experts in finance to source the Rs.1,300 crore as there was no data on collection of money on the basis of works. Who remitted the money was known, but not the works against which the payment was made.

Any construction activity in excess of Rs.10 lakh is liable for payment of one per cent cess towards welfare of workers under the Act. Hence, the concerned contractors and engineers paid the amounts without realising that the money was going to a central pool where a classified data bank was not created after the legislation was notified in 2007.

The Labour Department merely accepted the funds without seeking details of works.

The principle of cess collection envisaged that each work was a separate establishment though the engineering firm might be the same. Similarly, the same work was handled by several contractors and engineers, particularly in irrigation and road projects. This created a maze of people and works. And the National Rural Employment Guarantee works also came under the Act, but which work was to be registered as an establishment was not known. Nearly 45 per cent of payments were made online which made tracking the source all the more difficult.

To identify district-specific works and apportion the Rs.1,300 crore in these circumstances was an uphill task, said Additional Commissioner of Labour P.V. Murali Sagar.