In a landmark development, Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal has taken strong measures to ensure the welfare of all construction workers of Delhi. In a meeting with the Labour Department, the CM expressed his concerns regarding the lack of benefits reaching all workers and instructed the department to formulate an action plan to extend the benefit of all welfare schemes to each and every registered construction worker. The CM has also instructed the Labour Department to provide free bus passes and group life insurance along with verification of all 13 lac registered workers. Additionally, the Delhi Government has announced subsidised housing for construction workers in Delhi and will also provide Transit Hostels to migrant labourers working in the city.

In addition to this, the Delhi government has announced that toolkits and skill training for masons, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and painters will be provided on a large scale. The CM has also announced free coaching for children of construction workers, and the development of crèche facilities on sites.

These measures come as a significant relief for construction workers in Delhi, who have been adversely affected by the pandemic and have been struggling with several challenges. The CM has emphasised the importance of running the department effectively and providing the benefit of welfare schemes to every worker, highlighting his commitment to the welfare of the labour force.

Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal today chaired a high-level meeting with the Labour Department to review the functioning of the Delhi Building And Other Construction Workers Welfare Board on Monday. The meeting was also attended by Labour Minister Shri Raaj Kumar Anand and senior officials of the concerned departments. The meeting came as a follow up of a recently held review meeting during which the CM had instructed the board officials to formulate an action plan to utilise at least 25% of its funds on workers’ welfare this year. During the meeting the officials briefed the CM about the working of the board and presented details of various measures undertaken by the board to facilitate & benefit registered construction workers of Delhi in view of the said plan. The CM also discussed the progress of the existing schemes of the board during the meeting.

At the outset the Chief Minister expressed his displeasure with the Board’s inability to reach out to every single construction worker of Delhi. He said that even though 13 lac building & other construction workers are registered with the board, it has not developed any mechanism to verify their existence and reach out to them. “If the department is extending the benefit of these schemes to barely 400-500 people in the name of applications for a scheme, then there is no point in running this department itself. The costs of the department would be higher than that of the welfare schemes. If the department has 3,000-4,000 crores lying with it, then it must extend the benefit of its schemes to all 13 lac workers, there can be no compromise with the welfare of our workforce,” he said. He also directed the officials to conduct a proper exercise along with the teams of the revenue department to verify its registrations by June this year.

The CM further stressed upon how the ambit of every welfare scheme under the board needs to be extended to every registered worker. He remarked that it was unjust for the department to give pensions to only 500 new beneficiaries when it can very well increase the number by verifying eligible workers. Upon this, the CM directed the officials to find out and submit the number of registered workers aged above 60 within one week, so the benefit of pension can be extended to them.

Looking at the holistic data of registered beneficiaries under the department’s existing schemes, the CM noted that the department needs to reach out to the citizens in a more effective manner. “The department has some very well-meaning schemes but somehow it has not publicised them properly. Start reaching out to all registered workers on their phones. The cost of sending SMS and IVRS messages to all the workers on their phones would be much lesser than running TV and Radio campaigns and it will be much more effective. When we have all resources with us then we should leave no stone unturned in providing benefit of our schemes to our workers,” he said. The CM further instructed the officials to immediately work on an action plan to implement such an awareness campaign.

During the previous review meeting of the board, CM Shri Arvind Kejriwal had instructed the officials to explore the feasibility of providing group life insurance and free bus passes to all registered workers of Delhi. While reviewing the progress of these projects, the CM directed the board to meet with DTC officials and group life insurance companies to chart out the costs of implementing the said scheme at the earliest.

The CM then laid focus on the board’s upcoming initiatives that include distribution of toolkits to workers, providing crèche facility on site, skill development, providing subsidised houses and transit hostels to workers, free coaching for wards of construction workers and ESIC cover for registered workers. Under the planned initiatives, the Delhi Government will provide toolkits and skill training on a large scale to workers of 5 trades, including Masons, Plumbers, Electricians, Plumbers and Carpenters. Each toolkit will consist of 5-6 significant tools and 3 essential safety gears.

Further, the CM noted that government plans to provide subsidised housing to construction workers of Delhi and transit hostels to migrant workers working in Delhi through the board. Under this plan, the government will allocate LIG flats to construction workers, by bearing 75% of the costs, while the beneficiary will only be liable to pay the remaining 25%. The Chief Minister directed the board to meet with officials of land owning agencies like the DDA, MCD, DUSIB and DSIIDC to chart out a plan as to how much land the government can get for this purpose. He asked the officials to explore the possibility of both getting constructed houses from these agencies as well as land on which the government can construct houses and hostels on its own.

During this discussion, the officials apprised the CM that land allocated for the government’s Co-Working Spaces (CWS) can be used for this purpose after redevelopment. When the Delhi Government had set up rehabilitation colonies across the state, it had built some single-storey CWS centres on very large plots of land. The board has proposed a redevelopment of these centres where the government can convert them into multi-storey facilities with the CWS on the ground floor and large transit hostels for migrant workers above them. The CM remarked that the proposal is good to try out as an experiment initially and directed the department to take up a pilot project first.

Lastly, the CM approved a proposal to extend ESI Scheme cover to all registered workers of Delhi. The members of ESI get various benefits like unemployment allowances, disability benefits, maternity benefits, sickness benefits, medical benefits and pensions. Under the scheme the Employer contributes 3.25% and the Employee contributes 0.75% of the wage towards the fund. Though the ESI has a provision to cover construction workers, contractors largely are reluctant to deposit the contribution towards the fund. This leaves workers at loss as they lose their cover without membership of the fund. To enable the cover of ESI upon every worker of Delhi, the government will now reimburse the contribution made by contractors towards the fund. This will not only encourage the contractors to register their workforce for ESI cover but also extend all the benefits to the workers of Delhi without any hassle.

It is noteworthy that Chief Minister Shri Arvind Kejriwal has been closely monitoring all welfare schemes of the government himself. After having chaired a review of the workers’ welfare board on 12th April, the CM again reviewed its working today. The CM has now instructed the board to formulate a detailed action plan on how it plans to complete verification of all employees within two months, along with its plans on providing subsidised housing & hostels, group life insurance, free bus passes, ESI cover and educational benefits to all registered workers. The board has been asked to prepare the plan by the 1st week of May and present it before the CM for another review.

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