Satyasundar Barik

A welfare board has already been constituted

In the year 2004, as many as 139 workers died at workplace

Assistant labour officers have been given power to collect cess

BHUBANESWAR: The State government has decided to collect one per cent cess from all construction projects as per the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Rules, 1998 shortly.

If the collection of cess is developed into a corpus fund, thousands of construction workers who have ever been living on the edge are likely to be benefited

“We have decided to collect the cess from this month. A welfare board has already been constituted,” State Labour Secretary Ashok Tripathy said.

He said, “as per our statistics government agencies execute Rs. 4,000 crore worth projects every year while private sector churn out construction of equal amount. Total value of construction works comes to about Rs. 8,000 crore. We will have Rs. 80 crore in corpus fund every year.”

On January 14, the State government had constituted a state-level welfare board after almost a decade of passing of the welfare cess rules. According to the Act there is provision of creation of a welfare fund at the State-level financed by contributions at the rate of one to two per cent of construction cost and non-mandatory grants/loans.

“The fund is to be used for financial assistance to the families of beneficiaries in case of accident, old age pension, housing loan and for certain other family benefits,” said Gopinath Barik, president of Pragatisila Shramik Manch (PSM).

He, however, said the main challenge before the State government to identify construction workers and leverage its administrative machinery to cover all construction projects in the State.

After State took a stride for fast industrialisation, the deaths of construction workers also went up. In 2004, as high as 139 workers had died in the workplace. In the subsequent year, the death toll went up to 171.

The year 2006 seemed to be an aberration with the death toll going down below 100-mark at 56. By mid session last year, 117 workers perished during construction. Altogether 484 workers died during last four years.

“When a labourer dies in workplace, it triggers temporary emotive demonstration by fellow workers. But the tragedy is forgotten immediately. In absence of proper fund, it is difficult to address welfare of workers in unorganized sector,” PSM general secretary Rakhakar said.

He alleged a couple of years ago companies putting up their projects in Jharsuguda were ready to pay Rs. 36 crore as per the provisions of the act, but due to insouciant approach of State government that fund could not be collected.

According to Labour and Employment department, about 63,208 building and construction workers had so far been identified, but these workers had not yet been registered.

To implement the revolutionary act, assistant labour officers have been delegated with power to collect the cess from project implementing authorities.