Take care of unorganised workers: Sonia to PM, CMs

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 24, 2020

Congress president Sonia Gandhi

Says countries like Canada have already taken measures to protect work

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled States demanding special provisions to protect unorganised workers affected by the lockdown amid Covid-19 fears. She urged the Centre to utilise the money collected as cess under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act 1996 for the welfare of construction workers.

She said, in the letter, that lakhs of migrant workers have returned to their villages in the last week. “Over the last week, lakhs of migrant workers in major cities across India have left for their hometowns and villages, fearing a prolonged economic downturn. As the second-largest employer in India, over 44 million construction workers are now faced with a precarious future. Many are stranded in cities and are deprived of their livelihoods due to stringent lockdown measures,” she told Modi in the letter.

Untilised funds

Sonia asked Modi to utilise the funds available with State welfare boards for the benefit of construction workers. “The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act 1996 provides for various welfare measures for workers. The Act also provides for State Welfare Board and the constitution of welfare funds. It is reported that the Welfare Boards collected cess amounting to ₹49,688.07 crore till March 31, 2019. However, only an amount ₹1,93,79.922 crore had been spent,” the Congress president said.

She said countries like Canada have already taken measures to protect workers. “I request you to consider advising the State Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Boards to roll out emergency welfare measures, particularly wage support, to construction workers who are in distress,” she said.

Economic downturn

In her second letter on the Covid-19 situation to the Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Puducherry (Ashok Gehlot, Amarinder Singh, Bhupesh Baghel and V Narayanasamy, respectively), she said the public health emergency has triggered a severe economic downturn that threatens the livelihood of millions.

She told them that the construction sector was reeling under the impact of demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and the Covid 19 pandemic has served another blow. “Given that a significant part of the cess lies unutilised, the State Welfare Boards may consider providing wage support to their registered beneficiaries...Keep me informed of the progress in this matter,” she told the Chief Ministers.

Published on March 24, 2020

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