Data Focus

Did States leave construction workers in the lurch during second Covid-19 wave?

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on August 18, 2021

Reverse migration continued even during the devastating second wave

Construction workers are among the most vulnerable populations who suffered heavily during the Covid-19 waves. The majority of them who were out of employment in cities returned to their home towns. This reverse migration continued even during the devastating second wave. But Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Welfare Boards across States and Union Territories (UT) refrained from helping these workers during the second wave.

The data available with the central government shows that BOCW Welfare Boards in States and UTs cumulatively provided monetary relief of ₹7,413.83 crore to about 3.6 crore building and other construction workers during the first and second Covid-19 wave. But 76 per cent of the relief that is ₹5,618.35 crore was disbursed during the first wave and 24.20 per cent that is ₹1,795.48 crore was disbursed during the second wave.

About 1.83 workers received relief amount during the first Covid-19 wave while 1.23 crore received it during the second wave.

The central government had issued an advisory for States and UTs to frame a scheme under Section 22(1)(h) of the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) (RE&CS) Act, 1996 for transfer of adequate funds in the bank accounts of construction workers, through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Mode.

Of the total building and other construction workers who received relief amount during both Covid-19 waves, 28 per cent are from Uttar Pradesh and 11 per cent from Karnataka. Three States - West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra each provided relief to over 20 lakh construction workers (7 per cent of the total workers in India who received assistance).

Interestingly Rajasthan provided relief to 7,58,102 workers and that too only during the first wave. But the amount of relief is highest compared to other States. Rajasthan provided of ₹1, 799 crore that is 24 per cent of the total relief amount provided by all States. Karnataka provided relief of ₹ 1,265 crore (17 per cent of total relief during the first and second wave) while Uttar Pradesh provided relief of ₹1,023 ( 14 per cent of total relief during the first and second wave).

Only eight States including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Delhi and Nagaland provided relief to construction workers during the second Covid-19 wave.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment explains the reason for this scenario. The Ministry told Lok Sabha last month, “ During the second surge of Covid-19 in April-June, 2021, the lockdowns were partial, localised, specific and focused in terms of timings, geography, duration, restrictions, and relaxations. The construction activities, manufacturing industries, essential services, and public transport were generally exempted from lockdowns imposed by the State governments and district administrations were functioning without much disruptions”.

Nitin Pawar, activist who works with unorganized workers in Maharashtra, refuses to buy the government’s explanation. “The second Covid-19 wave was severe and the majority of construction workers were left in the lurch. Even those workers who had returned to cities after the first wave receded faced difficult times. The governments should have provided more relief during the second wave” he said.

Published on August 18, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

You May Also Like