Recently, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to frame a model scheme before September 30 to address the issues of education, health, social security and pension for construction workers, saying they build not just infrastructure, but also the nation.
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The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill was passed in August 1996 to regulate the employment and conditions of service of building and other construction workers and to provide for their safety, health and welfare measure and for other matter connected therewith or incidental thereto. The Act provides for regulating the employment and conditions of service, safety and health and welfare measures for the construction workers by setting up a Welfare Fund at the State level for crediting thereto contribution made by beneficiaries and collection made out from levy of cess of 1% of the construction cost incurred by an employer on construction works. The Fund is to be used for providing financial assistance to the families of beneficiaries in case of accident, old age pension, housing loans, payment of insurance premium, children’s education, medical and maternity benefits etc.
According to the government, till 31.03.2017 Rs 32,632.96 crore had been collected as Cess against which an amount of Rs 7516.52 crore had been spent for the purpose and objective of the Act. As per the Act, 1% Cess is to be levied and collected on all types of construction activities. The total construction activities including that of Government of India, State Governments, PSUs and private entities etc. could run into crores of rupees and the reported figure of Cess collected reflects poorly on the system of collection of Cess. The utilisation of cess is very poor as there was no fool proof system of collection and utilisation developed by the States.
The present system of assessment, collection of cess and its transfer to the BOCW Boards, is weak which could result into non-transparency and also leakages. Strangely, till now no efforts have been made to compare the collected Cess figure with the total construction activities carried out in respective State. Also, the Departments/State Governments or BOCW Board have not made any efforts to reconcile those figures.