Struggling to clear a mounting pendency, the city’s construction workers welfare board has decided to rope in lawyers from the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) for the purpose of verification of applications for renewal of memberships, which will enable thousands of workers to avail welfare benefits.
The move to take assistance of DSLSA, which was suggested by the Delhi High Court in a PIL filed by social activist Sunil Kumar Aledia, was conveyed to the court by Delhi government’s additional standing counsel Sanjay Ghose.
The Indian Express had on July 16 reported that between May 15 and June 29, the board had received over 29,000 applications for fresh registrations and around 18,000 more for renewal of registration from workers whose names went missing from the list of active members over the years due to official apathy. So far, only a little over 1,600 applications for renewals have been taken up for verification by the board.
However, Animesh Das, President of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions (Delhi committee), said the move may create another hurdle. “It will create another quasi-judicial authority. There is no way to check who is a construction worker. The solution lies in holding verification and disbursal of relief at the project sites itself,” Das said.
However, the Delhi government told the HC that the reports submitted by the DSLSA advocates would be acted upon “by the Board as it is”.
The court also said that the reports furnished by the advocates “should be treated as final and should be acted upon by the board without any delay.”
The board received 29,613 applications for fresh registrations, in addition to 12,051 forms submitted manually and 6,198 forms submitted through online mode, for renewal of registrations
The lawyers, who will be paid Rs 1,800 per day by the board, will be engaged for the “limited purpose of carrying out verification of applications for renewal of registration and for certification that the applicants are eligible and entitled to renewal of membership/ registration”, the bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar was told on July 17.
Each construction labourer enlisted with the board is entitled to many welfare benefits, including special assistance of Rs 5,000 to tide over the lockdown-induced crisis.
The court suggested that the DSLSA advocates can also explore the possibility of undertaking online verification of forms since many were also received through the same mode. “They could also hold interviews of the applicants and interact with them through videocall, since the applicants would have provided their mobile phone numbers,” the court said, a suggestion the Delhi government will consider.
“The Board should not lose sight of the fact that this entire exercise is being undertaken to expedite the process of grant of renewal of registration and, therefore, there should be no laxity in the same and the matter should be dealt with on a war-footing,” the HC added.