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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Government to speed up construction worker registration for benefits

Ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections, the government has asked the Labour Department to register around 60,000 construction workers in the state every day. The target is to take the number of registered workers from the current 3.70 lakh to 10 lakh in the coming weeks so as to provide financial benefits to maximum workers.

The benefits, however, cannot be extended to workers who have not worked for 90 days in the year they apply for benefits in. It has been learnt that MGNREGA workers might also be registered as construction workers. In an order of the Labour Commissioner on December 1, all deputy commissioners have been asked to ensure smooth registration of eligible beneficiaries, including MGNREGA workers. Ironically, the Labour Department in 2017 had issued orders on the directives of the Centre that “MGNREGA workers can’t be registered as construction workers”.

It’s a poll gimmick

The govt is violating the SC orders. I’ll file a contempt of court case against it. The spending can only be made via designated modal schemes. The idea of massive registration and giving benefits is to woo voters ahead of the polls. —Vijay Walia, Construction workers’ activist

The registration targets are said to have been given reportedly after the 28th board meeting of the Punjab Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (BOCW) chaired by Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Friday.

Ravneet Kaur, Principal Secretary, Labour Department, said, “We have launched a campaign to register as many as workers as possible. However, we have not set any targets for that.” When asked about legality of registering MGREGA workers, she replied, “I am not aware of the 2017 orders, however, eligible MGNREGA workers, as per the BOCW Act, will be registered.”

The apex court in a judgment in March 2018 had said the government cannot spend money from the balance amount of the BOCW Welfare Board. The state board is allowed to spend on designated welfare schemes only from the cess collected every year. However, the Punjab board has been spending from the balance amount which has to be decided by Parliament as per the Supreme Court orders.

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