In TN, funds collected for construction worker’s welfare board lying idle

From ET Realty

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Construction Workers Welfare Board may have collected Rs 1,320 crore as construction cess in the past 20 years, but only Rs 328 crore, less than 25%, has been disbursed as compensation to workers.

According to the Tamil Nadu Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Work) Act 1982, 1% of the estimated value of the construction has to be collected as cess from builders and contractors through civic bodies. The board was collecting 0.3% of the estimated value of the project as cess since July 1987, and increased it to 1% from December 2013.

As per statistics from the board, 1,837 workers died at construction sites across the state in the past two decades — an average of 90 deaths a year. But activists say the actual number of such deaths could be more.

Nearly 23 lakh construction workers are enrolled with the welfare board which has now started to provide membership to migrant workers as well. An estimated 15,000 migrant workers have been registered with the board though there are a million such workers across the state who toil without any affiliation.

“We are unable to provide compensation to the families of unregistered workers who have died or got injured at construction sites. But we are now examining a proposal to provide relief to such families,” said a senior official in the labour department adding that the board has been providing benefits like accident relief, pension, creches and other social welfare schemes to the registered workers.

However, state coordinator for National Alliance for People’s Movement, Arul Doss, said functioning of Tamil Nadu Construction Welfare Board is not effective.

“It has failed to protect the rights of migrant workers despite several accidents reported from across the state. Most of the deaths at the sites go unreported as contractors cover up these incidents. Accidents occur mainly due to the absence of safety measures at the construction sites,” Doss said adding that most shelters meant for the construction workers do not have basic amenities.

In August last year, the Supreme Court rapped state governments for neglecting the welfare of construction workers and misusing funds by spending it on other purposes. It said that around Rs 27,000 crore collected through cess remains unspent with the state governments.

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