States collect Rs 37K-crore labour cess, 75% unspent
Chandigarh: The state governments in the country collected more than Rs 37,000 crore as cess for welfare of construction workers over the years. But when it came to its spending, most of the states seem to have shied away.According to an RTI information obtained by a Ropar-based activist, Dinesh Chadha, till June 2017, all 29 states and seven union territories had collected Rs 37,482 crore as cess under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Act. However, only Rs 9,491 crore was spent on workers’ welfare.Under the Act, the state governments have to constitute boards for welfare of construction workers, which collect the cess and then spend on various schemes related to workers’ welfare. As per the Act, any individual constructing a building is liable to pay cess at the rate of one per cent of the total cost of construction to the board. There are 2.77 crore workers enrolled with various state boards in the country.As far as performance of individual states and UTs is concerned, only West Bengal, Mizoram, Manipur, Kerala and Puducherry seem to have taken the welfare of workers seriously. All these states spent more than 50 per cent of the cess collected for the purpose.Kerala is the only state to spend more than 100 per cent of the collections. The state spent Rs 1,579 crore on workers’ welfare against the collection of Rs 1,535 crore.Chadha, who is campaigning for labour rights, said it was ironical that on the one hand, workers were dying in absence of basic needs while on the other, a lot of money collected for their welfare remained unspent. “It shows how sensitive our governments are for the welfare of the workers,” he said.