Claiming that most construction workers in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region are outsiders, the government has decided to extend the benefits of the construction cess for the welfare of labourers to those working under the employment guarantee schemes in rural parts of the state.
The state government collects construction cess, one per cent of the construction work cost for projects worth more than Rs 10 lakh, from building contractors. In the last two years, it has collected Rs 1,089 crore. While the idea was to use the fund to provide health benefits, education for children and compensation to the family in case of death, the government has spent only Rs36 lakh on just 52 workers in the last two years.
Labour minister Hasan Mushrif, on Tuesday, said that of the nearly 1.03 lakh labourers registered with the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, most are outsiders. "We want the benefits to be enjoyed by people of the state. We have made adequate changes in the Building and Other Construction Act 1996 to include the labourers working under the EGS," he said.
Currently, 1.76 crore labourers from 71 lakh families work under the EGS. "Owing to the lack of awareness and constant migration, only a few workers get registered. Consequently, they cannot avail of the benefits of the scheme. Including workers from the EGS would help us in utilising the funds," the minister said.
Mushrif also blamed the shortage of staff for poor registration figures. "We are holding camps for awareness among construction workers," he said.
Labour organisations are unhappy with the move. "The diversion of funds is uncalled for as there are rampant irregularities in the EGS. This would deprive the construction workers from the MMR of the benefits of the funds with the government," said Prakash Reddy, executive committee member, AITUC.