Govt could use workers' welfare cess to run canteens outside B'luru

Plans to use part of Rs 5,800 cr to open 246 eateries across the state

Govt could use workers' welfare cess to run canteens outside B'luru

 Facing a paucity of funds, the state government is planning to utilise the cess collected for the welfare of construction workers to run the subsidised Indira Canteens across Karnataka.

The Urban Development Department (UDD) has proposed to reimburse urban local bodies (ULBs) such as Mysuru and Belagavi city corporations 40% of the cost of providing food served at the canteens.

It will do so by utilising the money collected as Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess. The move will substantially reduce the burden on the government which has to mobilise funds for running the canteens.

Close to Rs 5,800 crore is available under the cess as it has remained underutilised for years. The government collects 1 % of the total cost of any construction activity in the state as the cess.

The government recently announced opening Indira Canteens in all district and taluk headquarters. Currently, these canteens are open in Bengaluru where breakfast is provided at Rs 5 per plate and lunch and dinner at Rs 10 per plate.

The UDD plans to set up 246 canteens in all urban local bodies in the state, excluding Bengaluru, by the end of 2017. The project is estimated to cost Rs 185 crore. The monthly expenditure of running the canteens is estimated at Rs 9 crore.

“There is a provision in the Karnataka Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996, for providing food to construction workers. So, this money can be used for running Indira Canteens which are aimed at improving the condition of workers,” said Amlan Aditya Biswas, Secretary, Labour Department. “We (Labour Department) have accepted the UDD’s proposal.”

Around 11.6 lakh unorganised workers, including three lakh in Bengaluru, are registered under the Act. Many of them are construction workers, he added.

Mobile canteens

This apart, the Labour Department has suggested that the UDD introduce mobile canteens to cater to construction workers at their workplace. “It will be difficult for workers to go to the nearest Indira Canteen, especially for lunch. Hence, we have asked the UDD to provide lunch at construction sites. We are ready to share the cost,” Biswas said.

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