Thanks to a complicated disbursement process and lack of awareness among labourers, only a minimal fraction of the total Rs. 711.23 crore labour cess collected has been actually utilised in the state in the past three years.
Data sourced through Right to Information (RTI) queries show that only about 3% of the funds amassed by the Haryana Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board as labour cess has been used.
The labour department charges 1% of the construction cost or the project cost from builders or factory owners for the welfare of construction labourers. According to the labour rules, a worker has to be registered with the department for 3-5 years to avail funds under various schemes. Most of them, however, are migrants and are brought here on three-month contracts after which they move to other cities.
In most of the cases, it has been found that the contractors have failed to register their workers with the department.
RTI applicant Assem Takyar pointed out that although a few schemes like maternity allowance, aid for daughter’s marriage and financial assistance in the event of death are not bound by requirements like minimum years of registration, labourers are required to produce marriage, birth and death certificates within specified periods to avail of these funds. “They fail to do so due to lack of awareness and access to officials,” he said.
In the past three financial years, the highest amount has been spent on the Kanyadaan Scheme amounting to about Rs. 6.2 crore followed by Rs. 3.1 crore on death benefits, Rs. 2.7 crore on mobile, toilet and dispensary, and Rs. 1.62 crore on health insurance plan.
According to labour department officials, about 50% of the cess comes from Gurgaon, the hotspot for commercial and residential activities. The Gurgaon labour department began collecting labour cess in 2007. Besides, a huge amount of labour cess has been deposited with the Haryana Urban Development Authority, while many builders deposit their contribution directly to the Labour Welfare Board in Chandigarh.
“Our job is restricted to forwarding the applications of potential beneficiaries to the welfare board in Chandigarh. Unfortunately, very few such applications reach us,” said an official of the labour department.