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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Construction workers: To avoid welfare fund misuse, states told to use DBT, halt in-kind benefit

The Advisory Board is learnt to have flagged the purchase of stainless steel utensils through a tender process by the Maharashtra government, the distribution of umbrellas and lanterns was red-flagged in Himachal Pradesh.

Written by Aanchal Magazine | New Delhi |
Updated: March 24, 2021 11:47:28 am
An official order said some State Welfare Boards are incurring expenditure on distribution of lantem, blankets, umbrellas, and similar articles in-kind, leading to apprehension of misuse, leakage of cess fund.

Taking note of some states using construction workers’ welfare cess fund for distribution of lantern, blankets, umbrellas, household items, toolkits, utensils leading to “leading to the apprehension of misuse/leakage of cess fund”, the Directorate General Labour Welfare under the Ministry of Labour and Employment has issued directions to all states to not provide any in-kind benefit and give any monetary assistance to workers only through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).

“It has come to the notice of the Ministry that some State Welfare Boards are incurring expenditure on distribution of lantem, blankets, umbrellas, household items, tool-kits,utensils and similar other articles in-kind, leading to the apprehension of misuse/ leakage of cess fund,” an official order dated March 22 said.

“Any monetary assistance under the welfare schemes are to be provided through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) only in the beneficiary’s bank account…no benefit is to be provided in-kind except in extraordinary circumstances such as natural calamities, epidemics, fire, accidents caused due to occupational hazard or similar other crisis, and with prior approval of the State Government and intimation to DG Labour Welfare, Govt Of India,” it further said.

The Indian Express had last week reported the Central Building and Other Construction Workers’ Advisory Board, an arm of the Union Labour Ministry, flagging multiple cases of ‘misuse’ of money from the Building and Other Construction Workers’ (BOCW) Welfare Fund. Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand were among states that were sent missives by the Central Advisory Board on the misuse of funds for purchase and distribution of items such as utensils, umbrellas, lanterns and cycles, instead of tangible contingency measures such as money transfers.

The Advisory Board is learnt to have flagged the purchase of stainless steel utensils through a tender process by the Maharashtra government, the distribution of umbrellas and lanterns was red-flagged in Himachal Pradesh.

The BOCW Act stipulates that the Welfare Board provide immediate assistance to a beneficiary in case of an accident, make payment of pension to the beneficiaries who have completed the age of 60 years, sanction loans and advances to a beneficiary for construction of a house, pay amount in connection with premia for group insurance scheme of the beneficiaries and financial assistance for the education of children of the beneficiaries, medical expenses and maternity benefit to the female beneficiaries.

Last March, after the imposition of the lockdown to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre had asked states to use funds of around Rs 31,000 crore in their respective state construction worker welfare funds under the BOCW Cess Act for 3.5 crore registered workers. The latest available government data for state-wise breakup of registered BOC workers showed Uttar Pradesh having the highest share of such workers at 48.5 lakh, followed by West Bengal at 31.01 lakh.

An advisory was issued by the Labour Ministry on March 24, 2020 to all states/UTs to provide financial assistance to BOC workers via direct benefit transfer (DBT) from the BOCW Welfare Fund maintained by them. Most state governments gave out grants between Rs 1,000 and 5,000 per month to registered BOC workers.

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