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Maharashtra labour department plans to launch a mid-day meal scheme for construction workers

The Maharashtra labour department is considering a proposal to launch a mid-day meal scheme for construction workers. Officials from the department said Labour Minister Sambhaji Patil, in a meeting held in May, had asked the Maharashtra Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board to gather information about similar schemes in other states. “We gathered information from Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh and discovered that only UP has a mid-day meal scheme exclusively for construction workers. The Amma Kitchen in Tamil Nadu is for everyone, not just construction workers,” said a senior official.

He added that a large number of construction workers in Maharashtra comprised migrants from other states. “Many workers from rural areas also come to the cities for jobs. As there is no proper arrangement at construction sites for a shelter for the workers, it becomes difficult for them to cook food. This affects their health and work as well,” explained the official.

According to the the proposal, the workers would be provided mid-day meals at any construction site that employs more than 50 workers. “Only registered workers will be able to avail the scheme. The meals will be distributed by experienced NGOs or self-help groups selected through e-tendering,” said another official. The official added that the government was also considering a proposal to give coupons to the construction workers to increase the scheme’s effectiveness. “It is under consideration of the government. We will examine it and then will take a decision on it,” said Labour Minister Sambhaji Patil, about the proposal of giving coupons to workers.

The officials added that a monitoring committee might also be set up to keep a watch on the scheme. There are a total 6,43,369 registered labourers with the Maharashtra Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board as of September 2017. Of these, 3,12,696 are active labourers who have renewed their registrations, said an official, adding that according to a survey of the National Sample Survey Office, there were a total 27.53 lakh construction workers in 2015-2016.

“But only 6.1 lakh have been registered with the Board and only 3.12 lakh are active workers. We need to focus on retaining the registration by encouraging the renewal of existing registrations and attracting more workers to register with us,” added the official.

However, the Maharashtra Construction Labour Federation has criticised the government over the scheme, stating that it is ignoring the fundamental issues of the construction workers. “This is nothing but a scheme to give contracts to party activists. It will be another Zunka Bhakar scheme. The state government needs to focus on the health and education of construction workers’ children and provide them homes. It must fast-track the process of giving compensation to the kin of deceased construction workers,” said Shankar Pujari, president of the Federation.

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