Detailed Analysis of the BOCW Scheme in India
In India, BOCW Scheme stands for Building and Other Construction Workers Scheme and this Scheme was first introduced by the Government of India to solve the problems of unskilled workers or labourers in India who work in a critical and unpromising conditions. The BOCW Scheme monitors the working conditions & employment of the building & other constructions for workers or labourers, and it aims to provide welfare measures for the construction workers in India. The scope of this Scheme is wide because countries like India, where the construction sector rises day by day and there are many workers or labourers involved in this sector and to protect their interests, this Scheme is necessary.
Purpose of Introducing the BOCW Scheme
- The BOCW Scheme makes sure that workers or labourers involved in the construction sector are not being exploited and a safe & healthy working environment is provided to them;
- The Government has made it compulsory for every state in India to form their Building & Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Welfare Boards;
- Each labourer whose age is in-between 18 and 60 and who has been engaged with ant building or other development work for at the very least 90 days during the previous year is qualified for registration as a recipient of the BOCW Welfare Funder under the BOCW Scheme and Act;
- The functions of BOCW include providing quick assistance to the workers in case of an accident or mishappening, providing pensions, issuing loans for house construction, making payments concerning premia for Group Insurance Scheme (GIS), providing financial help for their children’s education, supporting workers by carrying their medical expenses in case of major ailment;
- Workers under BOCW Scheme can apply for the registration in the prescribed form with the prescribed documents and registration fee;
- This Scheme was established to observe the work environment of labourers or workers employed for infrastructure construction work. The BOCW Act is beneficial for implementing laws against strong work durations & sturdy working conditions.
Benefits of BOCW Scheme in India
Following are some benefits of the BOCW Scheme:
- Create Awareness: There is an urgent necessity for states to make an intensive effort to create awareness of the BOCW Scheme & register workers. This must happen in rural areas and by developers on construction sites.
- Clarify Eligibility for Scheme Benefits: Workers can apply for BOCW Schemes only after a certain period of being registered with the board. The biggest challenge is that by the time workers become eligible for these Schemes, most of them have already migrated to another location and this makes it difficult for them to avail the benefits of the Scheme. This requirement should be casual so that workers apply for all schemes right after registration/along with the registration.
- Implement a Standard Structure Across States: The Centre must take action in streamlining the implementation of the BOCW Act across states in India. Considering the mobile nature of the staff, it would be easier if the same BOCW Card were applicable in all states of India. This would definitely help workers to avail of scheme benefits quicker.
- Relax Conditions of the 90 days Employment Certificate: It is challenging for most workers to get this certificate which makes it hard to obtain the BOCW Card made. The eligibility criteria for this certificate can be relaxed by making it 90 days annually.
- Clarify the Renewal Process: If a worker has already registered for the card, they should be allowed for the renewal within a 90 days certificate from the contractor or by self-declaration. They must have to provide proof again if there have been any alterations to these documents.
Role of BOCW Scheme during Covid-19 Pandemic
Because of the pandemic, there has been a significant impact on the employment of construction workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the complete lockdown in India, the rate of unemployment among construction workers has arisen. With an aim to provide financial help & relief to construction workers, the Central Government directed all the State Governments of India to use the unutilised cess welfare fund as these funds provide the social securities to those construction workers or labourers who are registered with their respective State Governments.
As per the report of the Ministry of Labour & Employment, till March 2019, there was approx. Rs. 49,625 crores of cess reserved by the States & UTs, but only less than Rs. 20,000 has been utilised. There are huge differences in the amount of cess collected among the states. During the lockdown, the Government of the States & Union Territories (UTs) utilise the remaining cess funds for the welfare of construction workers or labourers during the pandemic & also by implementing those unutilised funds for the upliftment of corona warriors such as medical staff, police, doctors, etc.
Is it mandatory to register under BOCW Scheme?
Section 7 of the BOCW Act, 1996, talks about the Registration of an Establishment. It says that every employer of the construction work shall apply for an application to the registration officer for Registration of an Establishment. The application shall make an application for registration:
- If the establishment starts operating its function after the commencement of the BOCW Act, the establishment must make an application within 60 days from the date of its commencement;
- If the establishment starts functioning before the commencement of the BOCW Scheme or Act, then the establishment is needed to make an application within 60 days from the date of commencement of such Scheme or Act.
If a registering officer is satisfied with the reason for late registration, he or she may grant registration, he or she may grant registration for that establishment, and if all the forms & documents are prescribed as per the terms & conditions, they may issue the certificate of registration.
The Central Government acted the BOCW Scheme while giving the freedom to the State Government to lay out some proper procedures to help the unskilled labourers, giving that the laws set in the Act are not breached. The Government is still working on broadening the scope of the Act & making changes so that the respective State Governments can implement laws in the interest of skilled labourers.