Cess adalats will be held in all districts from today
: Minister for Labour Shibu Baby John has announced a major drive to collect huge arrears of building cess estimated at Rs.95 crore.
The Labour Department will organise a one-month-long building cess adalat in 14 districts from August 13 as part of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's 100-day programme.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Mr. Shibu Baby John said owners of residential and non-residential buildings and apartments were liable to pay building cess under the Construction Workers Welfare Fund Act. The cess would be levied on all buildings with a construction cost of over Rs 10 lakh at a rate of one per cent.
The adalat would benefit all owners of residential and non-residential buildings and apartments builders who had completed construction during the assessment years between January 1, 1996 and December 31, 2008.
Assesses could submit self-attested declarations and other related documents to avail themselves of benefits, including waiver of interest and penal interest on the un-remitted amounts. Documents such as building plan, estimates attested by engineers approved by local bodies, self-attested declaration of accounts of constructions would be accepted while settling dues, he said.
The Minister said notices had been sent to major defaulters, but building owners who had not so far come under assessment could get the benefits by participating in the adalat.
He said in some districts, the back log in assessment of building cess arrears dated back to 2005.
In 2010, the department had collected Rs.18.17 crore as building cess. The building cess came into force in 1996 as part of the Central Act. Since then, the Kerala Construction Workers Welfare Fund Board had collected Rs.466.65 crore as building cess, he said.
In reply to a question, he said the Supreme Court had upheld the building cess and there was no other option before the government under the rules.
Ceiling to be revised
To another question, the Minister said the Rs.10-lakh ceiling on construction cost was unrealistic in the light of the huge increase in construction costs. His department had proposed increasing the ceiling to Rs.25 lakh and this would be taken up with the Union Labour Department later this month.
The arrears had kept mounting because there was no mechanism in the department to collect the cess amounts. Ignorance of owners also was a contributing factor, while big builders rarely bothered to follow the rules.
Recovery of building cess would help the board to provide social welfare benefits to 20 lakh members of the fund. The adalat was being conducted in order to provide an opportunity for defaulters to pay up and prevent the cumbersome revenue recovery proceedings.
He said the Labour Department would review the functioning of other labour welfare funds and take corrective measures to make them effective social welfare tools for the target population. The Labour Policy he proposed to announce soon would focus on the revamp of the labour welfare fund boards.
The focus of the welfare boards would be to take up industry-specific programmes that would upgrade skills of workers. He said that computerisation in welfare boards would also go a long way in weeding out duplicate memberships in them.