Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for the state government, said the number of construction workers does not include schemes approved by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority.
The Supreme Court is hearing a PIL by NGO National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour which has alleged that the statutory cess levied on real estate firms for the welfare of construction workers was not being utilised properly.
In 2012, TOI had reported (Labour dept earns Rs 526 cr cess, doles out just Rs 70,000) how the Maharashtra government had collected Rs 526 crore through the levy of cess on construction projects (1% of the construction cost) on contractors and builders but paid out only Rs 70,000 as compensation. It has paid Rs 5,000 each to the families of 14 labourers who had died.
During the hearing last week, the Supreme Court observed that about 5,000 workers were not registered. “This is an extremely unfortunate situation because due to the non-registration of these workers, they will not get the benefit of the provisions of the Act and on the contrary cess will be collected from the contractor/builders but utilised for a purpose other than the benefit of the construction workers.”
It has directed the government to identify the contractors/builders who have employed these 5,000 construction workers without them being registered and take punitive action against the contractors/builders.
It has also directed the SRA to comply with the provisions of the Act ensuring registration of the builders/contractors along with the labourers. “…the construction workers are either illiterate or semi-educated, it is unlikely that they will know their rights under the Act. Therefore, the responsibility of registration must squarely lie with the employer/contractor/builder/state of Maharashtra,” states the order. The next date of hearing is October 10.