The Caravan

Building Discontent

On 24 March, the union labour ministry advised state governments and union-territory administrations to use unspent funds lying with their Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Boards to provide financial assistance to construction workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a government press release, the BOCW boards cumulatively had about ₹ 52,000 crore available. The funds had been collected under the BOCW Welfare Cess Act, 1996, under which employers must pay between one to two percent of construction costs to maintain boards created to implement safety, health and welfare schemes for construction workers.

A couple of days later, noting that some state governments had already earmarked a portion of their cess funds for routine welfare operations, a labour-ministry official clarified that the actual amount available with the boards for pandemic relief was ₹ 31,000 crore. During a press conference on 8 April, Punya Salila Srivastava, a joint secretary in

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