By Accommodation Times News Service
The Supreme Court slammed the Centre & States for doing no work to improve the condition of poor construction workers
The Supreme Court slammed the Centre and states for doing nothing to improve the condition of poor construction workers despite collecting Rs 24,000crore as construction cess to be solely spent on workers’ welfare.
A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A M Khanwilkar and Dhananjaya Chandrachud had done its homework on the subject and said, “The governments have together collected more than Rs 24,000 crore as construction cess. All these amounts are lying in banks in states, yet nothing is being done to provide succour to workers.” Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh said the Union government had devised a unique system of providing each construction worker with an identity card which he/she could use anywhere in the country to draw benefits. “This scheme will work without hindering the movement of workers from one place to another,” he said.
With the matter hanging for a decade now in the SC and the money not being utilised for the purpose mandated by law despite numerous orders from the apex court, the bench refused to grant Singh’s plea for some time to enable the Centre to file the utilisation and disbursement mechanism that had been worked out.
The bench asked the member secretary of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to discuss the issue with the Union labour secretary, the petitioner NGO represented through senior advocate Colin Gonsalves and other stakeholders and give a report in two weeks to the SC on status of implementation of the law which mandates collection of construction cess and its utilisation for workers’ welfare. It also asked NALSA to suggest the way forward. The CJI-led bench said, “It is a very serious issue. Thousands of crores of rupees are lying idle in banks though it is meant to be used for welfare of construction workers. Their children continue to play with sand and gravel at the construction site. No government has made effort to use the money to impart education to these children.
“There are little or no healthcare facilities for these workers. There is no convergence between the Centre and the state on this issue. The stark reality is that no state has spent money it has collected as construction cess on workers’ welfare.” The Centre had informed Parliament in December that states had collected Rs 24,014.51 crore as construction cess till September 30, 2015 but spent only Rs 4,255.57 crore out of it. Under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996, real estate developers have to pay 1% of the total cost of construction of the building as cess. The cess is levied to augment resources of the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board.