Builders have alleged that the government has spent only .01 per cent of the Rs 1,000 crore collected from them as cess under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996. The government however has made the rebuttal that it has spent more all of .034 per cent, that is.
The Builders Association of India (BAI) yesterday claimed that the different state governments have collected as much as Rs 7,000 crore, but spent just a few crores of that amount on the welfare of labourers. Of the Rs 7,000 crore collected as cess, nearly Rs 1,000 crore was collected from the state of Maharashtra, of which only Rs 10 lakh has been spent till date.
Anand Gupta, treasurer, BAI, said, “Maharashtra was the last state to put this act into force in late 2010 and by December 2012, the state government collected over Rs 1,000 crore, but barely spent Rs 10 lakh, as per the recent meeting held between BAI officials and the labour commissioner on December 29, 2012.”
The state’s labour commissioner Madhukar Gaikwad however claimed that Rs 34 lakh of the amount collected has been spent. Justifying the lack of expenditure, Gaikwad said that the Labour Welfare Board came into existence only in May 2011, and since then, most of its time was consumed in framing rules. Every decision has to be approved by a 16-member board that consists of representatives from the builders’ associations.
Gaikwad said, “We have already started the insurance plan, and have registered more than 98,000 labourers. We are in touch with most of the workers via the employers, NGOs and are also working on plans to impart skills and increase the capacity of labourers. The state technical department for higher education is also being roped in to improve their technical skills.”
Meanwhile, Gaikwad clarified that the sum of money collected in the state seems large because the state is home to the highest amount of construction work. He also clarified that it’s not just builders who give money to the state in form of cess, but all those involved in all kinds of construction work. “We won’t be able to spend such a huge amount of money overnight; things are under process and would soon be set,” said Gaikwad.
Builders claim that currently, the construction industry lacks skilled labourers, as a result of which construction quality is criticised often. “If the state government has not spent the money on the work that they collected it for, they should return the money back and we would train the labourers on our own; that would help us get quality workers. Other states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala have spent more than 35 per cent of the money collected. But our state doesn’t even seem to have plans ready about where the money would go,” questioned Gupta.