While the state labour department is likely to allot an office space for the sugarcane welfare board in the next few days, officials said there was still no clarity regarding funding for labour welfare schemes. Officials of the labour department said the office space in Grahak Bhandar building in Parli, Beed, has been identified for the welfare board. “The process of taking over the office space is in final stage and will be completed by next week. It will be taken on rent according to market rates. The board’s headquarters will be in Parli,” added an official. The Sugarcane Welfare Board has been named after late BJP leader Gopinath Munde.
An official said there were close to four lakh cane labourers in Beed and its adjoining districts. “Once the board is formed, we will begin the process of registering the labourers,” he said. He added that the board would provide financial security and improve the standard of living of sugarcane labourers. Sources in the labour department said, however, there was still no clarity on the financial provision for the welfare schemes for sugarcane labourers.
“We are of the view that, like construction workers, some cess should be collected from all sugar factories that can be used for the welfare schemes meant for cane labourers. This will not put a burden on the state government’s finances. The move of collecting cess is likely to be opposed by the sugar factories,” said a senior official from the labour department.
The state government plans to provide some funding in the initial years. In December, the regional office of the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) in Solapur had told 61 sugar factories in Solapur, Osmanabad and Latur districts to extend EPF benefits to labourers engaged in sugarcane cutting and transportation. Officials had said, since sugar factories pay the labourers through contractors, an EPF should be deducted. However, opposing the move, factory owners said they would take up the issue with the Maharashtra State Co-operative Sugar Factories Federation.