New Delhi:It could not be more worst a day for Narendra Modi government at the Centre. On International Labour Day (May Day) , when the government was indulging in rhetoric about labour welfare measures, the Supreme Court came out with a criticial observation about government’s attitude towards the workers.
The apex court was “shocked” when it was told that the Centre has set up a committee to fix a timeline to comply with the courts directions on a matter relating to the welfare of construction workers.
“For fixing a timeline, you have set up a committee?”, a division bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta wondered asking ,” What is this going on?”
“This is too much. This is exploitation of the poor,” said the court said while asking the government what it has done with the huge amount money meant fro the welfare of construction workers. ” According to us, you are sitting on (Rupees) 20,000 crore to 25,000 crore. Is this the attitude of the Government of India towards poor people of the country,” the bench observed when the counsel appearing for the Centre while expressing anguish over the submission.
The top court also directed the union labour secretary to remain present before it on May 7 to explain what was happening regarding the implementation of its order and two laws enacted by Parliament on the matter.
When the counsel representing some states told the bench that they have complied with the directions passed by the top court, the bench shot back, “what have you done except buying washing machines and laptops”.
“This is shocking. Is this a joke? These (construction workers) are people who have no education, no money and builders are exploiting them and the Government of India is saying that they will not do anything,” an angry bench observed.
Earlier, an affidavit filed in the court by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had said that a chunk of funds meant for construction workers’ welfare had been spent to buy laptops and washing machines and less than ten per cent was spent for the actual purpose.
The court had on March 19 asked the Centre to frame a model scheme before September 30 to address the issues of education, health, social security and pension for construction workers.
Pointing out that only about Rs 9,500 crore out of more than Rs 37,400 crore had been collected for the benefit of these workers was ostensibly was utilised for their benefit, the court questioned why millions of construction workers across the country were being denied the benefit of remaining Rs 28,000 crore?
Stating that its directions given from time to time for implementation of two laws have been “flouted with impunity”, the apex court had also directed the state governments and union territories to constitute an expert committee and bring out statutory rules within six months. The two laws are the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (BOCW Act) and the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996, (Cess Act).