Construction workers in Nagaland unaware of welfare schemes, least bothered about safety
Henlly Phom Odyuo
Dimapur, Nov. 11 (EMN): Construction workers in Dimapur go about their day quite early in the morning to earn their livelihood; some take their children along with them to work site.
Despite being deprived of basic facilities like shelter, food and sanitation, they have no choice as putting food on the table daily outweighs good working condition. Rasheed, a construction worker, told Eastern Mirror that they were used to working sans adequate facilities. He added that they entered the profession without proper training but eventually acquired the skills with experience.
His wife, who was also working with him in the construction of a roof slab in Dimapur, was seen with their two children, both aged below six. Along with them at the construction site were other minors. They appeared to be least bothered by the health risk posed by the dust and other materials at the site as it’s not new for them.
The construction workers at a site in Dimapur were seen without safety harness, or safety gears like gloves, helmets, boots and mask. They climb the temporary bamboo ladder with ease, touch the electrical wires without any safety gear and do the painting work sans eyes protection and mask on.
‘Although most of the workers engaged in the construction industry are untrained and are involved in risky tasks, we become skilled over time as this is the only profession we have been doing. Most of us pass on this skill to the next generation, so we acquire skill without undergoing any training and are not intimidated by the risk involved,’ said Jaseem, a construction worker.
They said that they earn a maximum daily wage of INR 600 and were unaware of the government schemes launched for them.
Although there are several welfare schemes launched by the government for the benefit of those working in unorganised sector, people in the construction industry, especially migrant workers are unaware of such schemes.
A labour officer in Dimapur told this newspaper that most workers in the construction industry are not aware of government schemes and programmes though they are eligible and have valid cards.
Those working in the rural areas are the most ignorant when it comes to government welfare schemes; they are unaware because most of them are seasonal workers and do not even claim medical expenditure from the owner of a project if they get injured during the course of performing their work, it was informed.
The secretary of Dimapur District Thikadars’ Association, Hukheto, said the association was formed in 2008 with an aim to look into the issues of the thikadars (supervisors) of construction works. He added that it has helped solve most of the issues involving the owners or contractors of a project and the thikadars.
Hukheto said that the association assists the family of a registered member with an amount of INR 10,000 in the event of passing away.
However, he lamented the workers refusing to register with the association to avail benefits. The workers are aware of a scholarship scheme for the registered workers. Other than that, most of them are not aware of the other benefits they can avail, it was informed.
Schemes for registered workers
The Nagaland Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (NBOCWWB), in line with the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, provides five welfare schemes including tool grant, insurance coverage, medical assistance, education scholarship, and maternity benefits.
To avail these benefits, a worker above 18 years of age and below 60 years engaged as mason, plumber, carpenter, electrician, painter, driver, operator and helper of construction machineries, to name a few, can be a beneficiary.
A labour inspector based in Dimapur said that under the tool grant, all registered members who annually renew their registration with an amount of INR 300 (INR 25 per month) receives INR 1000 as assistance for purchase of tools. However, he lamented most workers in the state not renewing their registration after registering, because of which most of the genuine workers lose out on the benefits.
“Approximately, there are around 2,200 registered workers in Dimapur district for the year 2022, inclusive of both Nagas and non-Nagas, but mostly Nagas. Also, those registered workers register for the education scholarship and not for other benefits,” the officer pointed out.
He also revealed that Naga workers do not claim their renewed cards even after renewing their registration despite reminders but come for availing the education scholarship.
Through the insurance coverage, which is in line with the central government schemes like Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Bima Yojana (PMJBY) and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY), the registered and active beneficiary members or dependents can claim INR 2 lakh in case of natural death and INR 4 lakh in case of accidental death.
Under the medical assistance, active beneficiaries or their family members can claim financial assistance of INR 1000 per day for the first five days and INR 500 per day for the following 10 days on continuous hospitalisation in any hospital. The labour officer informed that the beneficiaries can avail it for a maximum of 15 days and can avail this benefit for their families as well.
Under the education scholarship, a maximum of two children of registered and active beneficiary members studying in nursery to Class 10 can avail a financial assistance of INR 500 per child per month, which is INR 6000 in a year.
As for the maternity benefits, registered and active women beneficiary members or wives of registered members can avail an additional medical assistance of INR 6000 per delivery, which is up to a maximum of two deliveries. This is besides the medical assistance of 15 days if admitted in a hospital.
‘A man is also entitled for paternity benefit, and even if a woman does not under delivery at a hospital, she will still be entitled for the maternity benefit amount of INR 6000 but not inclusive of the 15 days medical assistance,’ said the officer from Labour department.
e-Shram portal benefits
The workers in unorganised sector can avail benefits via e-Shram, a national database of unorganised workers which was introduced in 2021 by the Ministry of Labour and Employment with an aim to transfer of financial assistance directly into the bank accounts of the eligible unorganised workers through direct benefit transfer (DBT) in emergency situations.
“Under this benefit, the e-Shram card will be valid across the country and one does not need to register from time to time after registering once. It is an implementation of social security schemes for the unorganised workers and help workers to develop their skills and employment opportunities. It also covers an amount of INR 2 lakh in case of accidental death and permanent disability,” it was informed.
The Dimapur Labour department said that the Supreme Court had given a target of 1 lakh registration for Dimapur district alone, however, even after extensive awareness programmes, most of the informal workers were not willing to register because of issues related to documents.
Longleng district, they said, is doing well in terms of availing this benefit.
(This story is the fifth and last in a series of reports on the construction sector in Nagaland as part of the Kohima Press Club-Nagaland Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (KPC-NBOCWWB) Media Fellowship 2022)