Notwithstanding the tall claims of Odisha Government to look after the welfare of labourers and employees engaged in unorganised sectors, the benefits are not reaching the workmen who are languishing at work sites. Official sources said a majority of them are not registered with the Labour Department and hence not eligible for insurance and other benefits under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.
The State Government has formed Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (OBOCWWB) to identify and register the unorganised labourers, including construction workers, and provide social benefits such as life and disability insurance, health insurance, housing, pension and other assistance. But more than 50 per cent registered workers are yet to get social security benefits under the scheme.
Sources said till date, 39,465 construction workers have been registered with the OBOCWWB in the district. Of this, only 21,285 workers have received the benefits. Bi-cycles have been given to 6,797 workers, tool kits to 6,913, safety equipment to 5,490, educational assistance to 1,337 and marriage assistance to 13 and death and funeral expenses were provided to 54 workers in the district. The deprived workers are not even aware of the social security benefits meant for them. As a result, most of them are yet to apply for the benefits.
Construction workers from Ersama and Balikuda alleged that though there is a provision to organise camps to distribute welfare benefits among the workers in the presence of local MLA, the Labour department and the district administration have failed to hold the programme. Despite several requests, MLA Prasant Muduli is yet to allot time for the purpose. As a result, disbursement of benefits to the construction workers has been affected in Balikuda and Ersama blocks.
This apart, other factors like negligence of labour officials, delay in verification and scrutiny of applications, shortage of staff and lack of awareness among the workers have affected the programme in the district, said Sudarshan Sahoo, a construction worker.