The Delhi High Court Wednesday asked the AAP government to renew the registrations of over five lakh construction workers who fulfil the eligibility criteria, so that they can be provided relief under its scheme for labourers during the COVID-19 lockdown.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar asked the Delhi government to revive the registrations of the workers who fulfil the eligibility criteria of having worked in the national capital for 90 days in the past one year as required under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Act.
Delhi government additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose and advocate Urvi Mohan, who appeared for the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare (BOCWW) Board, said the bench issued the direction for the benefit of workers who were stranded in the national capital without any work during the lockdown and whose registrations had lapsed or were suspended for various reasons, including non-payment of the yearly membership fees.
In the proceedings, held via video conferencing, the bench asked the Delhi government to send and sms to the over five lakh workers so that they can apply for registration expeditiously, Ghose said.
The detailed order is awaited.
The direction came on a PIL by social activist Sunil Kumar Aledia seeking registration of all construction workers here under the BOCWW Act so that they can get the benefit of the relief package of Rs 5,000 per month being provided to each labourer during the lockdown.
The plea, filed through advocate Shiven Varma, has contended that only a small section out of the over 10 lakh workers in the city are registered under the laws regulating their welfare and service conditions and thus, a huge chunk of the labourers are not getting benefits actually meant for them.
The Board on the last date of hearing had told the court that it had disbursed Rs 19.8 crore to 39,600 workers registered with it as relief package during the COVID-19 lockdown.
It had also said that it has provided old age pension of Rs 3,000 per month to retired construction workers.
However, the relief has been provided only to the workers registered under the BOCWW Act as mandated under the statute and rules framed thereunder, it had said.
The Board had told the court that only a worker who has been engaged for 90 days or more in a year is eligible for registration under the Act and can be provided the relief package.
On the issue of registering the unregistered workers, the Board had claimed that due to the lockdown, there are administrative and manpower hurdles in carrying out registration or renewal of the same as physical presence of the worker is required.
It would also be difficult to maintain social distancing norms if such an exercise is carried out, the Board had said.
It had also said that efforts are being made to launch an online application portal for convenience of the workers to get themselves registered.
The petition by Aledia has contended that despite collection of over Rs 2,000 crore under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act in the names of lakhs of workers, only around 37,127 construction labourers who are registered are getting the benefits.
It has also claimed that there has been gross under-registration of construction workers in the national capital since 2015.
The petition has contended that the lockdown has led to work and wages being denied to the labourers and the relief granted by governments, through direct benefit transfers or orders to pay wages, are not available to those not registered.
It has further contended that due to lack of responsibility by employers, governments, and concerned departments, these workers have been left to fend for themselves and also deprived of the mandated benefit of crores of funds collected in their names.