Despite tall claims of the Punjab government of launching various schemes for the welfare of poor and labourers but, in the absence of a district labour department office here, the labourers in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (SBS) district, are even finding it tough to get themselves registered with the labour department and avail benefits of various government-run schemes.
In the absence of a permanent labour office in the district, labourers of Balachaur tehsil visit Hoshiarpur while Nawanshahr and Banga residents have to visit Jalandhar labour department to get themselves registered with the labour department or to file any complaint of exploitation by the owner.
SBS district was carved out of Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar districts in November 1995 after separating Nawanshahr from Jalandhar while Balachaur from Hoshiarpur district. However, despite repeated applications and memorandums to the state government during the past 20 years, the government has failed to act upon their demand.
Baldev Bharti, president of the NGO, Labour Helpline, said, “We have approached chief minister Parkash Singh Badal several times in the past years and even the CM assured us two months ago that a separate labour department will be set up to provide hassle-free services, but to no avail.”
Many times poor labourers do not go to file complaints because of the distance they have to travel.
A labour inspector Surinder Singh, posted at Goraya town in Jalandhar, admitted problems in handling the work due to having additional charge of SBS Nagar, Hoshiarpur and Balachaur to deal with labour issues.
Even the much-hyped Bhagat Puran Singh Sehat Bima Yojana insurance scheme has badly affected in the district and hundreds of labourers are yet to get themselves enrolled for free insurance benefit.
It has also affected the registration of labour beneficiaries under the Punjab Building and Other Construction Work Board (BOCW), constituted to offer social security for old-age, healthcare and assistance in the event of death, marriage and accidents after registration with the labour department.
As per information, SBS has only 17,000 registered workers, though there are over 1 lakh workers including building and other construction workers, street vendors, NREGA workers, domestic workers, licensed railway porters, sanitation workers, mine workers, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers and rag pickers, who were eligible for various labour department schemes.
Sources said that the labour department has distributed benefits worth Rs 3.37 crore among registered workers with the labour board. While, benefits of Rs 2 crore were pending for distribution among labourers whose applications are pending with the department.
Assistant labour commissioner, Hoshiarpur, Iqbal Singh Sidhu, and assistant labour commissioner, Jalandhar, Sukhjinder Singh, admitted that department work is being affected due to the overburden of work and staff shortage. “We have taken up the matter with the higher authorities to create a separate labour department in SBS Nagar,” they said.
Shortage of staff in labour dept
Sources in the labour department said that during the past four months, they have managed to register only 500 workers due to excess work.
The labour department offices in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala are already running short of sanctioned labour inspector posts. Adding to their woes, the government has allotted additional charges to these inspectors of SBS and Nakodar areas, which make it very difficult for them to conduct raids properly as they have to concentrate on both districts.
Additional deputy commissioner Paramjit Singh said, “ the matter related to the labour department and the district administration had no role to play. But, we are coordinating with the labour department. If a labour department is constituted in the district, it will be helpful for labourers.”