Jaipur: For the first time, a meeting was held of the construction workers of Jaipur district at the office of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Speakers said that although about 11 lakh people had been registered as construction workers across the state, many were not getting the benefits that the government offers to construction workers.
Speakers commented on how difficult procedures had become – it was as if the government was deliberately putting in place mechanisms to make access to services difficult for poor people, Sumitra Chopra of the CPI-M said. She was addressing the gathering of about 100 workers, some of them women. She explained that there was a need to get together not only to assure workers access to economic benefits, but also for greater political awareness so workers can be vigilant and protect their own interests.
Many of the construction workers who took to the podium also said that they had not received any services from the government despite being registered as construction workers. Puran Mina, a construction worker participating in the meeting, said, "Since the registration as a construction worker means one can access wheat for Rs 2 under the food security programme, there is much demand for such registration. It is not clear if all the 11 lakh people registered as construction workers are indeed in such work."
Speakers attempted to inform the workers about the services that the state government offers them – there are schemes for scholarships, and even one that offers aid for the marriage of up to two girl children. "However, there is now a clause saying that the girl should have studied up to Class 8. For availing the Rs 55,000 offered by the state government as aid for marriage expenses, the construction worker should be aware that he will have to make the application within three months of the wedding. The wedding should also be registered," one speaker said.
Speakers rued the fact that the scheme that offered a cycle to every worker at the time he was registered as a construction worker had been stopped. "This government is set upon making things harder and more opaque. Why is the system of registration as a construction worker now online? One reason could be to prevent people from coming together and demanding their rights.
Also, when one seeks medical insurance against a Bhamashah card, one is told that the card should first be linked to the food security scheme. Given how difficult and corrupt the system is, workers must understand that they can only beat the system by coming together and negotiating together," Chopra said.