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State governments spend peanuts on construction labourers' welfare as they brave unemployment, price rise

Monday, 18 August 2014 - 6:06am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: DNA
State govts collect money for their welfare from builders, but spend peanuts

Three-year old Manish and his two elder sisters are seemingly happy in the company of their father Mithlesh, a construction labourer, as he plays with them outside their shanty in Noida sector 82. The kids don't know that he is with them because he has lost his job.

"When I was employed I would earn about 300 rupees every day. For some reason the work has stopped and I have to look for work elsewhere," says Mithlesh, as he waves away the flies from the face of the toddler.

His wife continues with her work at the site which helps them pay for their meagre meals. "Tomatoes are Rs 80 a kg and this is the case with nearly all items. Prices are hurting us. Besides, we won't be able to leave the colony till we pay the kirana shop from where we pick up our groceries on credit," he says.

Mithlesh, who is from Katihar in Bihar, is among the lakhs of migrant labourers in Noida, a huge force that is steering real estate growth in the region for the past two decades. According to the Noida Development Authority, these labourers numbered three lakh in 2010.

With the welfare and protection of the interests of these labourers in mind, the government had framed the Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Cess Rules, 1998.

Under the central government rules builders are required to deposit a percentage of their project cost with the state government, which must use the funds for the workers. However, a dna investigation reveals that while the government is collecting the funds from the builders, the money has seldom been utilized for the welfare of labourers.

An RTI reply stated that of Rs 1,283 crore collected in Noida, Delhi and Haryana, between 2010 and 2012, only Rs19.71 crore has been spent for labour welfare in these states.

A senior BJP source told dna the central government has been apprised of the matter and it will take this up with the state governments. An email from dna on this matter to Anita Agnihotri, secretary, ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation, was not answered.

Interestingly, Uttar Pradesh spent just Rs 75,000 of a total Rs 107 crore collected in 2010-11. Haryana and Delhi are not far behind in the non-deployment of these funds. Of the Rs 269 crore and Rs 196 crore in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively, the Delhi government utilized only Rs 4.5 crore and Rs 2.5 crore in the two years.

With minimal civic amenities at workers' colonies, the hope for social security simply recedes for these labourers.

The labourers say that the developers care for their children. "My children go to a makeshift school at the project site itself," says Bablu, a 20-year-old labourer. "The teacher had come to the colony and gave us a earful as children are not attending regularly."

Asked why children did not attend the classes, Poonam, a housewife, retorts, "The children often fall ill and there is no medical facility here. We cannot afford to take our kids to private clinics."

The wages are also a concern. "In this area, we get a daily wage of Rs 170. This is very low compared to what some others get in areas along the expressway," says Ranjeet.

In October 2011, the Guardian newspaper highlighted the plight of the labourers who were hired for the construction of the Formula One race track by the Jaypee Group. It mentioned that the payment to labourers had been erratic.

HOME TRUTH

Under the Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Cess Rules, 1998, state govts are required to collect a percentage of the project cost from builders towards welfare of construction labourers In 2010-11, Delhi collected Rs 269 cr, but utilized just Rs 4.5 crore

Uttar Pradesh was even worse. The state collected Rs 107 crore and spent just Rs 75,000




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