Rs 7,500 crore welfare fund underused in Karnataka | Bengaluru News – Times of India
Funds of Rs 7,500 crore are lying unused with the Karnataka Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board even as lakhs of labourers face hardship because of the Covid-19 lockdown. The money was collected as a cess from building owners over the years and is meant to be utilised to help the sector’s workforce.
BENGALURU: Funds of Rs 7,500 crore are lying unused with the Karnataka Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board even as lakhs of labourers face hardship because of the Covid-19 lockdown. The money was collected as a cess from building owners over the years and is meant to be utilised to help the sector’s workforce.
Ever since the lockdown was announced last month, labour organisations and NGOs have been urging the board to provide a dole of at least Rs 10,000 each to construction workers, many of whom are out of employment. But the state government has announced assistance of only Rs 3,000 each.
“What’s the purpose of this fund if it can’t be used when construction workers need help the most? The government must consider the demand for higher cash assistance,” said K Puttaswamy Gowda, the president of KPCC’s labour cell and a former member of the board.
More than 29 lakh construction workers are registered with the board, which collects 1 per cent of the building cost above Rs 10 lakh as cess. The welfare fund grew to Rs 10,280 crore, out of which, it used a chunk for the Covid relief package announced by the chief minister last year. The spend also includes a stipend for migrant workers.
The board spends around Rs 300 crore to Rs 350 crore annually on workers’ pension, scholarships for children, safety gear and other purposes. According to an official, it earns annual interest of a similar sum on the accumulated fund.
“Every year, the board gets around Rs 1,000 crore, which includes cess and the interest. Spending Rs 2,000 crore on workers in a pandemic should not be a problem. But the government must have the heart to take such a step,” said Basavaraju, a labour leader from Ballari. C Naganath, a member of the board, said that workers’ demand was justified and he had requested the board to consider it. “There is a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday). I will raise the issue again,” said Naganath, who is associated with the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.
Labour minister Shivaram Hebbar, who heads the board, said that there was no proposal to increase the relief amount. “We decided to provide Rs 3,000 cash assistance after giving a lot of thought and keeping in mind the financial position of the board. Moreover, the SC recently ordered the board to give a monthly stipend to migrant workers. The board needs funds for that too,” he said.