Repealing the BOCW Act is an Attack on the Welfare Responsibilities of the Indian State

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The Construction Workers’ Committee of India has been forced to finally appeal to PM Narendra Modi because they feel that the Centre’s move to subsume the labour laws of the nation into four distinct codes will hamper their wellbeing and further bring about their marginalisation. They argue that the closing down of the BOCW boards will lead us to a situation wherein lakhs of construction workers who are no longer part of the working force due to old age related ailment or workspace caused disability will no longer have access to either their due pensions or to other social security programs.

The closing down of the BOCW boards is therefore a danger to the wellbeing and dignity of lakhs of workers across India. It is in order to protest against this move by the government that the National Campaign Committee for Construction Workers has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and shown opposition to the government’s idea of subsuming the nation’s labour laws into four distinct codes as they fear that it would repeal the BOCW Act. They are also sceptical about the repealing of the BOCW Act because it was through the act that a range of social security benefits reached to the construction workers employed in diverse industries.

The idea of repealing the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW)Act is a threat to the security and dignity of the workers employed in the construction industry because through the act they would become beneficiaries for various state sponsored social security nets such maternity benefits, subsidized education and healthcare among others. As a result of the Centre’s decision, all the 36 state BOCW Boards will be closed down.  This implies that four crore construction workers who were registered with these Boards and were the beneficiaries of the state sponsored gains will no longer be entitled to them.

The denial of benefits provided by the state in order to ensure welfare of the construction workers through schemes such as subsidized education and healthcare to all the registered construction workers- is nothing but an attempt of the state to retreat from all its welfare related responsibilities.

The closing down of the BOCW would lead to the cancellation of lakhs of pensions that were earlier responsible for ensuring that old or disabled construction workers did not die of hunger.

This would free the state from the responsibility to taking care of lakhs of construction workers employed in dire conditions in different parts of the nation such as subsidized education for the children of construction workers, maternity benefits etc. It is important to acknowledge that in India workers in the construction industry get work for an average of fifteen days in a month and most of them do not even get the basic minimum wage. Within these conditions if they are also deprived of their social security nets, their survival will become extremely hard.

Moreover, the new scheme demands them to pay a fixed amount from their monthly wages for their own social security fund- this will only put even more survival pressure on ordinary workers. Experts in the field have asserted that the best way of funding social security of construction workers is through the collection of a minimal cess of 1-2% of the total cost of the construction establishment and this is what the BOCW Act asserted, it will remain to be seen how the Centre’s new plan tackles the challenges of worker security and collection of money for the security fund.

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