A member of Delhi’s construction workers welfare board has levelled charges of bribery against a district secretary of the body, a development which has been conveyed to the Delhi High Court through an affidavit.
“You are requested to look into the demands being made by the district secretary from the construction labourers during the Covid-19 pandemic, who has been ignoring the directions, which is also in dire contempt of the Hon’ble High Court,” member Mohan Kumar wrote to the secretary of the board on October 7.
Kumar, who represents a union, also wrote that despite standing instructions to call workers to the board’s offices only once for paperwork, they were being made to make multiple rounds by the district secretaries. One of the secretaries has been demanding bribes of up to Rs 2,000 from workers, he alleged.
On Tuesday, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who recently took charge of the labour department, also expressed disappointment over the state of affairs in the board following an inspection of one of its district offices at South Delhi’s Pushp Vihar.
Sisodia lashed out at officials in charge of the registration, renewal and verification process of applicants. When one of the officials claimed that the “server was down”, thus stalling their work, Sisodia asked them if they had raised the issue with their superiors.
“Have you seen the queue outside? People are standing since 3.30 am… There is a deep nexus between them and middlemen. I will send everyone to jail if they indulge in such acts. The workers are standing in line for hours. They are not lying,” Sisodia said.
The issue of low capacity of the server has been repeatedly highlighted by the Delhi High Court in the recent past. The court has been asking the board to launch a dedicated portal, instead of depending on the e-districts portal which also handles many other services of the government. However, the board has so far maintained that launching a dedicated portal was beyond its expertise and that it has requested the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to handle the issue.
The court’s suggestion on verification of applications over video conferencing has also not made headway, with confusion over whether a government or private agency should bring the necessary technological changes.
During his visit around 10.45 am, Sisodia also found that the district secretary was yet to turn up. “Why should he not be suspended? If he has no explanation (for the delay), then suspend him.”
Currently, 52,000 workers, whose memberships are active, are enrolled with the board, which is down from over 1.28 lakh in 2015. Around 66,000 applications are pending for verification, which Sisodia said will be taken up on a priority basis.
The board runs a number of welfare schemes funded by the cess collected from building projects under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996. The Delhi board has a corpus of over Rs 3,200 crore.
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