[Read the entire court order here]
Laptops and washing machines have been bought out of an amount of Rs 29,000 crore meant for the welfare of construction workers; less than 10 % has been spent on the actual purpose. This came to light after an affidavit filed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India reports Outlook India.
The apex court had directed the CAG to file a report on how crores of rupees meant for the welfare of construction workers were being spent after the affidavit was filed on 10 October.
The Supreme Court, in its order, has found this outrageous act to be “shocking” and “extremely distressing” state of affairs that needed to taken care of immediately.
It pointed out that the enormous amount that is collected by the government through a cess collected under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 has not been used under the required trajectory of aiding the construction workers.
The bench also found that massive amounts have been spent for administrative purposes although the statute permits only 5% expenditure for the same.
The bench comprising the Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice M.B. Lokur directed the Union Labour Secretary to come before the court on 10 November so that it could understand the misuse if not the abuse of the enormous sums of money.
This response came from the Supreme Court while it heard a PIL filed by NGO, National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour in 2006.
The NGO had alleged that the statutory cess levied on real estate firms for the welfare of construction workers was not being put to the right use. Due to lack of proper mechanism to identify the beneficiaries, the money that was collected was alleged used for the wrong purpose. The petition has named the Centre and all the states and union territories as the respondents.
The petition also pleaded for proper implementation of rules and regulations relating to the health, safety and welfare of the workers and provision of safety equipment including safety harness and safety nets at the place of work.
The Supreme Court has been making continuous interventions to monitor the wide gaps between the policies meant for the benefit of the construction workers and their implementation.
In 2009, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court held in its order that “urgent steps are to be taken so that the benefits of this legislation shall not go waste. Otherwise, the unorganised workers of the construction sector will be denied the benefit of the Act”.
The apex court is still working hard to ensure that the construction workers in the unorganised sector get their due.
The Logical Indian appreciates the gesture of the Supreme Court where it has ordered an investigation into the wrongful appropriation of money that was meant to benefit the workers.