June 30, 2020 12:44:29 am
Soon after Punjab government announced Rs 6000 relief each to construction workers during the curfew and lockdown, the state Labour Department received over 70,000 applications. The applications were forwarded by the Common Service Centres (CSC), under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, for registration as construction workers.
The huge number of applications set the alarm bells ringing. Along came allegations that employees at the CSCs were luring poor people to get registered as construction workers by charging them a small amount of money while promising them the one time payout by the state government.
The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board earlier this month barred CSCs from processing and forwarding new applications for registration as construction workers even as Punjab Labour Department initiated a probe .
According to Additional Chief Secretary (Labour), Vijay Kumar Janjua, confirmed that probe was ordered following complaints from labour inspectors amid CSCs forwarding more than 70,000 applications for registration as construction workers in a matter of days. Janjua said there were complaints that employees at CSCs “allured” people to register as construction workers by charging “exorbitant sums between Rs 200 to Rs 500″.
CSCs Punjab head Jaspal Singh too confirmed that “the probe is on by the Labour department.” He said employees at CSCs processed and “forwarded applications as they received from applicants with supporting documents”.
The applications are assessed by the respective labour inspectors and Janjua said “as large number of such applications through CSCs” set alarm bells ringing, the new registrations were not done pending the probe.
Punjab disbursed over Rs 176 crore to more than 2.8 lakh registered beneficiaries in two tranches of Rs 3000 each in March and April. The amount was credited directly into the beneficiaries’ accounts.
CSCs are access points for delivery of essential public utility services, social welfare schemes, healthcare, financial, education and agriculture services, apart from host of B2C services to citizens in rural and remote areas of the country, as per Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology official website of Common Service Centres Scheme.
Janjua said the CSCs were engaged by Punjab government earlier this year for processing applications for registration of construction workers for a wider outreach.
He said registrations by the labour department were primarily carried out on the basis of applications processed at Sewa Kendras, where details like Aadhaar card made it a foolproof system.
In the applications processed by the CSCs, there were instances where more than 150 applications were found against a single mobile number.
As per labour rights activists and director of Centre for Social Change and Equity, Vijay Walia, there were around 25 lakh construction workers in the state, but only a fraction of those were registered. Walia alleged that BOCW Act was “not being followed” in letter and spirit, resulting in large number of construction workers not getting covered under the registration.
Janjua said around 3.3 lakh people had registered as construction workers in the state and following a verification exercise less than 2.9 lakh were selected for the one time ex-gratia scheme announced by the Punjab government.
The disbursements made by Punjab government under the curfew relief scheme could not reach all the beneficiaries either. Official data reveals that in first tranche when a total of Rs 85.9 crore was disbursed to 2.86 lakh beneficiaries, Rs 8.25 crore could not reach 27,530 of them and in second tranche out of Rs 90.14 crore credited into the accounts of 2.82 lakh beneficiaries, Rs 2.43 crore could not reach 6,691 beneficiaries.
Also, there were beneficiaries who were paid more than once in the first tranche. “Double payments” as per the official statistics were made in 2,734 cases (Rs 1.64 crore).
Asked about this, Janjua blamed the “double payments” to “inadvertent entries” which crept into as “programmer” processed a “large data”. “We have effected recoveries in majority of the cases where extra payments were made,” said Janjua.
On the number of beneficiaries not getting the relief amount credited in their bank accounts, Janjua said, “It was due to various reasons, including bank mergers where IFSC codes changed. Then there were dormant accounts. We have conducted a verification exercise where transactions were unsuccessful and in most of the eligible cases, money has been credited.”
Walia, however, said he had been receiving many calls from the construction workers who lament that they were yet to get the money.
Janjua said that there maybe cases of new registrations. “We disbursed amount to beneficiaries registered with us by a cut off date,” he added.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.