Disbursed Rs 19.8 cr to over 39k workers under COVID-19 relief package: AAP govt to HC

New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) The AAP government told the Delhi High Court on Friday that till April 9 it had disbursed Rs 19.8 crore to 39,600 workers registered with the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare (BOCWW) Board as relief package during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Delhi government further said that it has provided old age pension of Rs 3,000 per month to retired construction workers through the board.

However, the relief has been provided only to the workers registered under the BOCWW Act as mandated under the statute and rules framed thereunder, it informed a bench of Justices Manmohan and Sanjeev Narula which listed the matter for further hearing on May 20.

The court was hearing a PIL seeking registration of all construction workers in the national capital under the Act so that all of them can get the benefit of the one-time relief package of Rs 5,000 being provided to each labourer.

The plea by social activist Sunil Kumar Aledia has contended that only a small section out of the over 10 lakh workers in the city are registered under the laws regulating their welfare and service conditions and thus, a huge chunk of the labourers are not getting benefits actually meant for them.

Delhi government additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose and advocate Urvi Mohan, appearing for the Board, told the court that only a worker who has been engaged for 90 days or more in a year is eligible for registration under the Act and can be provided the relief package.

On the issue of registering the unregistered workers, the Board has claimed that due to the lockdown, there are administrative and manpower hurdles in carrying out registration or renewal of the same as physical presence of the worker is required.

It would also be difficult to maintain social distancing norms if such an exercise is carried out, the Board has said in its reply.

'To do away with the requirement of physical presence or opening of the office, the necessary upgradation or change in IT structure would be required, which is not feasible during the lockdown,' it further said.

It also said that during the lockdown itself, the Board processed the registration applications of 7,242 workers that were pending with it and disbursed the one-time relief package to them also.

'Thus, a total of Rs 19.8 crore has been given as relief to 39,600 registered construction workers,' it said.

On the issue of registration, the Board said it had sent letters to over 7,000 contractors to furnish details of workers employed by them, but only 210 of them have responded.

It also said that efforts are being made to launch an online application portal for convenience of the workers to get themselves registered.

The petition by Aledia has contended that despite collection of over Rs 2,000 crore under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act in the names of lakhs of workers, only around 37,127 construction labourers who are registered are getting the benefits.

It has also claimed that there has been gross under-registration of construction workers in the national capital since 2015.

The petition has contended that the lockdown has led to work and wages being denied to the labourers and the relief granted by governments, through direct benefit transfers or orders to pay wages, are not available to those not registered.

It has further contended that due to lack of responsibility by employers, governments, and concerned departments, these workers have been left to fend for themselves and also deprived of the mandated benefit of crores of funds collected in their names. PTI HMP SKV SA