The Supreme Court Friday slammed the central government and states for their failure to implement two almost 15-year-old laws on the regulation of working conditions and welfare of construction industry labourers.
The court expressed its displeasure at the total indifference of the central and state governments in implementing the Building and other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and the Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996.
Under the Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996 a welfare board was to be set up in all states to collect one percent of the building plan from the building agency as cess.
The money went to a fund for carrying out welfare schemes including health, medical care, pension, housing loan and the education of the children of the workers engaged in building and construction industry.
If the state governments and the union territories were not implementing the laws aimed for the welfare of the workers then what was the central government doing, asked an apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL).
After expressing its anguish, the court said that Maharashtra has 30 lakh construction workers and it has not set up a welfare board as mandated under the act.
‘We also don’t know why the centre has not issued directions to such states,’ the court said, describing this as ‘unfortunate’.
The court asked the central government to call for necessary details from states and union territories about the steps they have taken for the implementation of the statute for the welfare of building workers and in pursuance of the apex court directions of January 2010.
The court asked the central advisory committee (CAC) to file a status report on the steps it had taken for the implementation of the welfare law for building workers.
The court said that it would continue monitoring the setting up of the welfare boards and their functioning.
In the course of the hearing, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves told the court that more than Rs.4,000 crore have been collected by way of cess but the same was not properly put to use for the welfare of the workers.
The court was told that 14 years after the enactment of the law Maharashtra, Goa, Nagaland, Mizoram, Sikkim, Lakshadweep and Daman and Diu have not set up welfare boards.
In five other state, the welfare boards were non-functional. In other states, the boards set up were either not registered or were discharging minimal activities, the court was informed.