Why funds collected for workers welfare not used to pay wages: HC

Why funds collected for workers welfare not used to pay wages: HCWhy funds collected for workers welfare not used to pay wages: HC
Highlights

The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Centre and the AAP government why the funds collected for welfare of construction workers are not used to pay daily wages to them every time construction activities are banned in the city.

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Centre and the AAP government why the funds collected for welfare of construction workers are not used to pay daily wages to them every time construction activities are banned in the city.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani said thousands of crores are collected as cess from builders and consumers for welfare of employees, but the governments are "not giving a penny" to the labourers.

"You (governments) stop or ban construction activity and the labourers are left without work. You have collected thousands of crores as building cess, but you don't give a penny out of it to the labourers who are starving," it said.

"Why should the State and the central government be not fastened with the liability? What are you doing with all that money? Both the central government and the government of National Capital Territory of Delhi have to answer," the bench said.

Besides, the court also asked the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Welfare Board why funds collected under the BOCW (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, and the BOCW Welfare Cess Act, 1996, cannot be used to pay the labourers who are deprived of their daily wages, when construction activity is stopped on government or court directions.

The Central Pollution Control Board and the Environment Protection (Prevention and Control) Authority for Delhi-NCR have also been asked to indicate their stand on the matter. With the direction, the court listed the matter for further hearing on August 6.

The court's order came after the BOCW Board told the bench it cannot provide any relief to unregistered workers from the funds collected as it is not provided under the statute. The board also said the statutes did not provide for paying daily wages to idle workers.

The bench was hearing a PIL petition filed by labour welfare activist Saurabh Bhatnagar through advocates Chirayu Jain and Rudrakshi Deo. The petition sought framing of welfare schemes or policy to provide financial security in the form of daily wages, at minimum wage rates, to all the construction workers in Delhi when construction activities are banned/halted/limited by the authorities.

It also sought that any such ban/halt/limitation on construction activities in Delhi be not permitted "till a policy to provide financial security to all the construction workers is not only adopted, but is also tested and is ready to be implemented".

The plea claimed that from November 1 to November 12 2018, when construction activities across NCR were banned due to increased air pollution, lakhs of workers were left without any alternate source of livelihood or financial security. It also claimed that the BOCW Welfare Board has funds of over Rs 2,000 crore, out of which it disbursed less than Rs 73 crore on welfare schemes for workers in 2018.

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