The State government has withdrawn the powers of 36 labour boards to meddle with loan instalments of nearly two lakh contract workers.
The decision follows complaints by labour unions against the mismanagement in payment of the loan instalments, which are deducted by the boards from the workers’ wages and submitted to banks and credit cooperative societies in return for a commission. Serious lapses have been discovered in instalments paid on behalf about 15,000 workers, who have availed of facilities for construction of homes or daughters’ weddings, senior officials said.
Of the registered 2,12,519 workers, 15,817 have availed of the loan facilities since 2016. Issuing the order recently, the Maharashtra labour department has said the boards will have no power to do so in future.
“The board has no authority to deduct the instalments from the wages of the registered workers as it is not their employer under the scheme,” said under secretary Shrikant Pulkundwar.
Senior officials said the changes have been instituted with immediate effect, especially in Mumbai, which is home to five major labour boards and 1,00,008 workers, nearly 47% of the total strength. The loans are availed of by the mathadi hamals (contract labour) for various purposes: construction of homes, agricultural development, daughter’s marriage, health treatment and education, among others. Nearly 25.8% of loans were taken for constructing homes.
“We have found malpractices in the way loan instalments were being deducted and the commission charged by the boards without eventually paying the instalments to banks. Therefore, we have decided to take the power away from the board. We are investigating further,” said a senior official of the labour department.
Some of the boards in Mumbai include Khoka Making and Timber Market Labour Market, Kapus Bazar Kamgar Mandal, Dhathu and Kagaj Bazar and Dukane Mathadi Kamgar Mandal, Kapad Bazar and Dukane Mandal and The Clearing and Forwarding Godhi Kamgar Mandal, among others. A recent socio-economic survey of the workers had found about 43% of them come from the Maratha community, 24% from the scheduled caste, while 33% are Muslims and others. Amongst the Marathas, 39% had availed of the loan facility while among the scheduled castes, the number was at 17%.