Thousands Of Construction Workers Fail To Renew Membership, To Forgo Welfare Benefits - Eastern Mirror
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Thousands of construction workers fail to renew membership, to forgo welfare benefits

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Nov 14, 2023 10:44 pm
Construction workers in Kohima 2023
Construction workers are seen working on a high-rise building using bamboo scaffolding in Kohima. Photo: EM images.

KOHIMA — At least one-third of the construction workers registered with the state government failed to renew their membership in the current year, which means they will not be able to claim any welfare benefits meant for them.

There are over 30,000 beneficiaries registered under the Nagaland Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (NBOCWWB), Department of Labour. However, less than 20,000 beneficiaries renewed their membership in the current financial year, chief executive officer (CEO) of NBOCWWB, Dr. T Chubayanger, told Eastern Mirror.

The CEO informed that the board has not undertaken the registration of new members this year. He explained that registered members are required to renew their membership annually, and despite concerted efforts to encourage renewal, regrettably, many have not done so.

Typically, renewals occur at the start of the year, spanning from January to March. In line with this schedule, the board opened up an online renewal platform so that beneficiaries can complete the process through their mobile phones. Unfortunately, this approach proved unsuccessful.

Subsequently, the board tied up with common service centres (CSCs) by aligning with the Information Technology and Communication department to streamline the renewal process. However, an issue arose as beneficiaries had to pay remuneration fees to the CSCs, leading to complaints of overcharging.

To ensure widespread awareness, several SMS reminders were sent to all beneficiaries a month before the registration commencement. Despite these efforts, a significant number of beneficiaries did not proceed with the renewal process. “We cannot do anything when they don’t renew their membership,” the official said.

The activation of membership depends on the completion of the renewal process. Failure by construction workers to renew leads to the deactivation of their membership for that particular year, making them ineligible to access benefits from welfare schemes.

The official also pointed out that initially, the beneficiaries complained that it was difficult to come to the office for renewal. In response, the board introduced an online renewal and registration option. While acknowledging that not every construction worker may be IT literate, the official emphasised that assistance could be sought to facilitate the renewal process.

Chubayanger mentioned that the board is considering the implementation of new registrations, particularly targeting construction workers affiliated with the Border Roads Organisation. He also revealed plans to extend outreach to remote areas, specifically focusing on the Mon district, where a significant number of workers remain unregistered.

Weeding out bogus registration

In the effort to combat fake or fraudulent registrations, the CEO highlighted that, for the sake of transparency, the board transitioned to an online system. This system now exclusively registers individuals identified at the worksite, discontinuing the previous practice of on-the-spot form submissions at the office.

“Otherwise, earlier people used to take forms, fill up the forms, get it recommended from some authority and we have to register them. That’s how many non-workers also came in. But now we have completely stopped that,” he said.

Addressing the issues in the registration process, the official explained that initially, the board empowered village authorities in rural settings and ward authorities in towns to authenticate genuine construction workers. This approach aimed to ensure the registration of only legitimate construction workers.

However, issues arose with the certification process. “Some village councils started selling the forms we had sent,” resulting in the inclusion of many housewives into the system, the CEO revealed. The board had also collaborated with registered contractors to verify genuine construction workers, but this initiative was halted as some “black sheep” within the system engaged in selling the forms.

“We are doing our bit but I don’t know why our people are so dishonest. Almost all authorities are doing the same exercise, which becomes very challenging,” he added.

Currently, the board relies solely on the identification of workers at the worksite, a method acknowledged by the CEO as expensive and time-consuming.

Surprisingly, in the process of verification of genuine construction workers, Chubayanger disclosed that some government employees also applied for registration, and were promptly deleted.

Fortunately, when it comes to the children’s education scholarship, one of the schemes for active members, the board successfully identified government employees by cross-referencing details from the cumulative records of children, where parental information is provided.

Verification process explained

As for the verification process, the official said construction workers have to show their respective worksites to the board inspectors and district officers, after which no further verification is required. The district officer will issue the final attestation once the workers are identified at the work site.

Since the welfare schemes are a hundred per cent direct benefit transfer (DBT), the identified workers have to submit their bank account details, Aadhaar card for verification and birth certificate. These documents will be uploaded into the system for future reference. However, for the first registration, the workers have to be physically present.

He also pointed out that the most common reason for rejecting applications is the issue of different names on different documents. In all the documents, the names have to be the same. Another reason is that the documents uploaded may not be clear.

Benefits, schemes for registered workers

The board releases INR 18 to 20 crore annually for various claims under the five schemes. According to the NBOCWWB, a one-time ‘tool grant’ of INR 1000 will be given to beneficiaries on successful registration.

The beneficiaries also get insurance coverage under PMJJBY and PMSBY through Life Insurance Corporation of India amounting to INR 2 lakh for natural death and INR 2 lakh for accidental death.

Under medical assistance benefits, financial assistance of INR 1000 per day for the first five days and INR 500 per day for the next 10 days on continuous hospitalisation, is provided to registered beneficiaries, spouses and children.

In the children’s education allowance, two children of the beneficiary studying from Nursery to Class 10 will be provided INR 500 scholarship per child, per month as children’s education assistance, subject to renewal of application for every academic session.

Maternity benefits of INR 6000 per pregnancy (subject to a maximum of two pregnancies) will be provided to the wives of registered beneficiaries and registered women beneficiaries.

(This is the fifth and the final story in a series of reports as part of the KPC-NBOCWWB Media Fellowship 2023)

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Nov 14, 2023 10:44:54 pm
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