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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Labourers' welfare fund remains unused

Deevakar Anand, Hindustan Times  Gurgaon, January 11, 2013
First Published: 01:07 IST(11/1/2013) | Last Updated: 01:09 IST(11/1/2013)

Funds to the tune of Rs. 240 core meant for the welfare of construction workers in Haryana remain unused, thanks to the rigmarole of disbursement process and lack of awareness among the potential beneficiaries.

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In the last financial year, the state labour department has spend only Rs. 7.3 crore, about 3% of the total Rs. 238 crore collected as labour cess by the Haryana Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Board.

The government levies 1% labour cess of the total cost of a project on builders or factory owners to contribute to the construction workers' welfare scheme.

In 2011-12, Gurgaon alone contributed about 50% of the total collection from across the state owing to rampant constructions and commercial activities.

The Gurgaon labour department began collecting labour cess in 2007 and it has collected Rs. 20crore so far. Also, a huge amount of labour cess has been deposited to the Haryana Urban Development Authority (Huda). Besides, many builders deposit their contribution directly to the welfare board in Chandigarh.

Even though the fund remains unutilized, construction workers are unable to avail the benefits of the scheme due to lack of awareness and government's apathy, which is evident from the response of department officials.

"The situation is as good as in other states," said Haryana labour commissioner Satwanti Ahlawat before hanging up the phone when contacted by Hindustan Times.

On the other hand, Gurgaon additional labour commissioner Naresh Narwal couldn't be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.

Senior labour department officials, on conditions of anonymity, admit that the process of spending the fund is too complicated.

"While we are supposed to collect the cess locally, the disbursement of funds to labourers is done by the welfare board in Chandigarh. We only forward the applications," said an official.

Also, a worker has to be registered with the department for 3-5 years, to be eligible for availing the fund.

"This doesn't happen as most of the workers who come from West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and other states work for three months and are sent back by the contractor. The contractor doesn't care about their registrations for the scheme. Many workers are not even aware of the welfare fund," the official said.

A few schemes like maternity allowance, aid for daughters' marriage and financial assistance in the event of death are not bound by the requirements like minimum years of registration. But to avail these funds, labourers have to produce marriage, birth and death certificates within specified period, which they fail to do due to lack of awareness.


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