The Supreme Court bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta on Monday deplored the indifference of the Centre, state and union territory governments towards implementing two welfare laws enacted by the parliament in 1996 to improve the living conditions of construction workers and their families. In order to ensure meaningful implementation of these twin legislations, the apex court then issued a slew of directions to the authorities.
The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (BOCW Act) and the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996 (Cess Act) were enacted by parliament to fill the legislative void on the subject. It was done with the due consent of state governments and union territory administrations (UTAs).
The BOCW Act aims to ensure that building and construction workers are not exploited because of their poverty and their children do not suffer for lack of education, healthy living and whatever else it takes to live a life of dignity. The Cess Act enables the state governments and UTAs to collect a cess from every employer as defined in the BOCW Act to be utilised for the benefit of registered construction workers.
The cess so collected is paid to the Welfare Board constituted under the BOCW Act, after deducting the cost of collection, which shall not exceed 1% of the amount collected.
The Supreme Court expressed its dismay that although more than Rs 37,400 crore has been collected under the Cess Act, only about Rs 9,500 crore has been utilised “ostensibly” for the benefit of construction workers.
The Centre filed several affidavits in the Supreme Court to indicate its helplessness in effectively implementing the two legislations despite several statutory directions issued by it. The affidavits filed by the state governments and the UTAs indicated a lack of understanding on how to spend the cess that had been collected. It appeared that the money was actually being used for purposes other than for the benefit of construction workers.
Source: The Wire