May 21: The Delhi High Court Wednesday directed the Delhi government to ensure all construction workers, including nearly 5 lakh workers whose registrations have lapsed, are covered under its ex-gratia relief scheme for the Covid-19 crisis.

According to the scheme, the Delhi government is providing Rs 5,000 to every construction worker registered with it.

A bench led by Justice Vipin Sanghi was hearing a petition filed by social activist Shiven Verma, highlighting the plight of construction workers during the lockdown, and how the non-implementation of The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, has denied them the right to social welfare schemes, The Print reported.

A Delhi government report filed during the hearing revealed there were 5,39,421 registered construction workers as on 30 September 2018. But the financial benefit was transferred to only 39,600 whose registration was valid as on 23 March 2020. A total of Rs 19.08 crore has been spent in the disbursal, the document said.

The court has now ordered that the government should allow such labours to renew their registration under the 1996 Act, so that relief can be extended to them as well.

“It, thus, appears that only a fraction of the originally registered construction workers has been able to avail of the ex-gratia relief granted by the respondents, due to them not having renewed their registration,” the court said in its order.

“This is not a satisfactory state of affairs, and the respondents are obliged to take effective steps to encourage the construction workers — who are otherwise eligible, to renew their registration, so that the intended benefit can reach them as well,” it said.

The direction, also given to the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, requires the authorities to send messages on mobile numbers of all such workers, informing them about the renewal of the registration process and the papers required for it.

On being told that out of 7,000 employers, only 242 have shared addresses of construction workers, the bench instructed the board to send reminders to those who did not respond. Criminal prosecution or penalty should be imposed against the defaulters, it said.

“The employers to whom reminders are issued to seek information from them, should co-operate and provide the requisite information that they are obliged to provide to the board. The employers should be made aware of this direction of ours,” read the order.

The messages must contain details of the manner in which workers can renew their registration, and which certificates they need to submit under the law.

The court said they should be informed of the renewal fee, and how it can be deposited or transferred.

This exercise, the Delhi High Court said, must completed in the next four days. Once the registrations are approved, the workers would be entitled to payments since March 2020, it clarified.

The message to the workers should be preferably in Hindi, the court said.

When it was pointed out to the court that the registration website is in English and the procedure to register is cumbersome, it added: “The fact that the website of the board is in English language is certainly a matter of concern, considering the strata of the society from which the construction workforce comes.

“We are hopeful that the board would make its website bilingual, so that the applicants are able to receive and provide the information in Hindi language as well.”

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