Lack of awareness, misinformation on “labour cards” and “why” BOCW?
One of the most discussed points when assessing BOCW is the lack of awareness of the scheme and its associated benefits. During our field visit to a labour nakka in Thane, our team observed that a majority of inter-state migrant workers in the area did not have BOCW cards. Additionally, they were asked to produce the 90-day proof of employment, which a seasonal migrant construction worker finds difficult to acquire.
Moreover, workers learn about BOCW only after coming to the destination state. In this case, it was through Chalo Network and a local organisation working on the ground. Because workers had no prior information about BOCW, they were either missing required documentation or their existing documentation was mired with inconsistencies. For example, people had different last names on their PAN and Aadhaar cards, which made the KYC process tougher. Many only had tattered copies of their Aadhaar cards, and texts were hard to decipher. The BOCW process in itself, therefore, was delayed because more time was invested in getting documentation done for workers.
But what is surprising is that the exclusion of inter-state migrant workers from BOCW continues in states which do not have strict mandates for employment proof. As per our field team in Bangalore, most BOCW registrations are of intra-state migrants. Interstate migrant workers are simply not interested in registering for BOCW, they say.
Lack of awareness and inconvenient registration processes only tell a part of the story. A majority of inter-state workers self-reject themselves as a beneficiary because they already have a labour card, by which they mean an NREGA card or, in recent times, an e-shram card. Additionally, most don’t feel the need to apply for a BOCW card because of their short-term contracts and the seasonality of work in the construction industry. The question that our field team often gets from inter-state construction workers is “how will BOCW help us when there is no guarantee of us being in the same state in the following months?”