Direction under BOCW Welfare Cess Act
In a first major step for the unorganised sector to tide over the Covid-19 pandemic during the lockdown, the Central government on 24 March 2020 directed the states to transfer cash into the bank accounts of construction workers from the unutilised welfare funds meant for them. Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar wrote a letter to all the chief ministers of states and union territories, urging them to utilise a total of Rs 52,000 crore lying vacant in the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Fund. There are about 35 million construction workers in the country registered under the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Welfare Cess Act, 1996.
- The government has invoked Section 60 of the Act to issue directions to the State government to frame a scheme “for transfer of adequate funds in the bank accounts of construction workers, through direct benefit transfer mode.”
- The amount to be granted to the construction workers may be decided by the respective state governments and union territories.
- The financial assistance at this point in time would help to mitigate the financial crisis of our construction workers to some extent and boost their morale to deal with this epidemic, the letter issued by the labour minister stated.
- The country had about 50 million construction workers and the states can also launch a drive to register more workers under the Act so that the rest of the unaccounted construction workers are also able to take benefit of the cash transfer.
- Some state governments have already announced relief to workers by utilising money from the cess fund.
- Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has declared an immediate relief of Rs 3,000 to each registered construction worker in the state and Himachal Pradesh will also provide one-time relief of Rs 1,000 to such workers.
- To provide relief to employers, the government has extended the last date for filing returns under eight labour laws and 10 central rules for the year 2019 till April 30, 2020.
- The central government will not initiate legal action against establishments if they failed to file returns till the end of February due to the coronavirus pandemic, a letter issued by the Chief Central Labour Commissioner said.