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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 51 New Delhi December 7, 2019

Hard-Earned Rights of Construction Workers are Badly Threatened

Sunday 8 December 2019, by Bharat Dogra

COMMUNICATION

After a long struggle of almost two decades two important laws for the welfare and social security of construction workers were enacted in 1996. These provided for a cess of one per cent to be imposed on construction works which can fund pensions, health and maternity benefits for construction workers and scholarships for their children. Thirtysix building and other construc-tion worker boards (BOCW boards) have been set up in different States and Union Territories since then under these two laws. These laws have a wider relevance for other sections of unorganised sector workers as well.

The progress was slow initially but after the National Campaign Committee-Construction Labour (NCC-CL) initiated court cases for speeding up implementation, hopes had been rising (particularly after a Supreme Court verdict in 2018). Several workers and their children have started receiving benefits while many more have high hopes.

Unfortunately these hopes have been badly jolted in the process of the Union Government enacting four labour codes and repealing 44 existing labour legislations including the two Construction Worker Acts of 1996. The NCC-CL has strongly opposed replacing the hard-won existing rights with a very weak and impractical alternative system which will be very difficult to implement.

In a memorandum of construction workers after a recent protest rally, the Committee has stated that the construction workers oppose the four labour codes which will replace the BOCW Acts of 1996. The repealing of these two Acts will result in the closure of all the 36 BOCW Boards in various States and Union territories, cancellation of registrations, pensions, scholar-ships and other benefits, the Committee has said. The construction workers have instead demanded the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment of 2018 on the NCC-CL petition regarding better implementation of the two 1996 legislations.

Delhi      Bharat Dogra

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