Audits to track construction workers’ benefits

Social audit pilot projects to check if construction worker welfare boards are registering workers and giving them benefits, and also to weed out non-workers registered illegally, are scheduled to begin this week in Rajasthan and Delhi.

The Labour Ministry has also issued the draft framework for the social audit on implementation of the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (BOCW), in accordance with the Supreme Court’s orders.

The construction industry is India’s second largest employer, with estimates suggesting that there are between five and seven crore workers in the sector, of whom less than half are registered.

Site visits

While the BOCW social audits aim to cover all districts every two years, the pilot projects will be done in Delhi’s Bhawana ward and a yet-to-be-finalised block in Udaipur district, according to the civil society organisations leading the process.

“We will visit construction sites as well as the areas where workers live, to check how many of them are registered with the welfare boards,” says Subhash Bhatnagar, convener of the National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour (NCC-CL), which is coordinating the pilot in Delhi. “Do the children of the workers all have the scholarships they are entitled to? Those who have applied for various benefits — pension, maternity — how long do they have to wait? If you only get the maternity benefit when your child is two or three years old, what is the use?”

The social audit team will also find workers who have not registered and try to find the reasons that prevented them from doing so, he said.

“There are also problems in some districts where large number of non-construction workers have been illegally registered,” added Abha Mishra, programme manager at Aajeevika, the nodal agency for the Rajasthan pilot.

The format for the audit has been laid out in detail in a draft framework issued by the Labour Ministry last week.

SC direction

In its March 19 judgement on a petition by the NCC-CL, the Supreme Court noted that the Centre and States had “flouted with impunity” previous directions to implement the BOCW and directed that social audits be conducted to hold the government accountable.

The apex court noted that the BOCW would be useless without accountability in registration efforts.

“All that we have been told is that there are more than 4.5 crore building and construction workers in the country and earlier about 2.15 crore had been registered and as of now about 2.8 crore have been registered. How these figures have been arrived at is anybody’s guess. In any event, the registration of building and construction workers is well below the required number and is also a guesstimate,” the judgment noted.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 3:41:01 AM |

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