The burgeoning bogus membership in various workers welfare fund boards and the fall in annual returns are feared to thwart the execution of welfare schemes for indigent labourers.
Official sources told The Hindu here that the funds apportioned for the welfare schemes were becoming grossly inadequate and most of them were compelled to limit their functions to the disbursal of routine benefits like monthly pensions. Medical benefits and the financial assistance given for the marriage of the wards of impoverished workers were likely to come to a halt soon.
About 17 welfare fund boards had been constituted in the State to take care of the well-being of workers employed in different sectors. The boards are the sole source of succour to scores of labourers in the dusk of their life. Vested-interests are allegedly making use of the loopholes in the enrolment system to add new members and this has paved the way for corrupt practices. Membership to the boards is given on the basis of a certificate issued by the contractor who employed the worker, secretaries of local self-government institutions, or trade unions. There are complaints that trade unions of all hues were liberally issuing certificates for a fixed sum without verifying the genuineness of the applicants. This had led to a massive increase in membership and the mismatch between the membership base and annual returns had made the going tough for the boards.
The fast-growing membership base of the Kerala Building and other Construction Workers Welfare Fund Board is being cited as a case in point. The board had a membership base of 17 lakh and a corpus of Rs.600 crore. The corpus was formed by the monthly subscription of the members as well as the cess levied on new buildings. The interest of the corpus fund was being used to disburse the pension and other benefit to the members who completed 60 years of age.
A majority of the private construction companies and contractors were now engaging labourers from other States. Still, there is a steady increase in the number of applicants. Same is true in the case of various other boards too. Labour Minister Shibu Baby John had reportedly directed the department to scrutinise the beneficiaries under all boards. The scrutiny was aimed at weeding out fake members and expose unions and officials who had issued bogus certificates, sources said.
Keywords: Labour department