Return unspent amount meant for vaccination: Punjab labour welfare board to health dept

Additional Chief Secretary (Labour) Vijay Kumar Janjua told The Indian Express over the phone that utilisation certificates (UCs) and reimbursement of any unspent amount had been sought from the health department.

More than a month after it had released over Rs 7 crore for the vaccination of all construction workers and their family members/dependents in the state, the Punjab Building & Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Welfare Board on Saturday asked Punjab health department to furnish utilisation certificate pertaining to the released funds and return the unutilised funds, if any. The move comes 20 days after the Centre started providing free vaccines for all above 18 years of age beginning June 21.

Referring to the release of a sum of “Rs 7.08 crore on June 4 through RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) in Vaccination CSR Funds….for providing vaccination to the registered construction workers and their family members/dependents”, Punjab BOCW Welfare Board pointed out that “recently, Government of India has also made announcements that it will take up the project of providing free vaccination to all in the country and further action on the same has also been started by the Government of India”.

The Centre had made available free Covid vaccine beginning June 21 to all aged above 18.

The correspondence by Punjab BOCW Welfare Department to Punjab Health and Family Welfare Principal Secretary by Additional Secretary of the Board further read, “Keeping in view the facts stated above, you are requested to furnish a Utilization Certificate pertaining to funds (Rs 70827750/-) already released by the Pb (read Punjab) BOCW Welfare Board. In case, the entire released funds have not been utilized by your department, the remaining released funds be reimbursed to the BOCW Welfare Board at priority to avoid any audit objection at a later stage.”

Additional Chief Secretary (Labour) Vijay Kumar Janjua told The Indian Express over the phone that utilisation certificates (UCs) and reimbursement of any unspent amount had been sought from the health department. “We have the Aadhaar cards of 3.5 lakh construction workers registered with us. There were 2.19 lakh construction workers who were aged between 18 and 44. Out of those around 1.9 lakh got the vaccination. The analysis by us showed that not many from the family members/dependents of the registered construction workers went in for vaccination,” Janjua said, adding that UCs and reimbursement of any unspent money had been sought following the Centre’s decision to vaccinate all aged 18 and above free of cost.

A Punjab government functionary wishing not to be named said, “There is no confusion in vaccination of construction workers. It is public money where one department of government gave money to another department for vaccination.” The functionary added that “after analyzing the details, the government would do the needful factoring in data pertaining to already registered workers and the workers registered later.

Labour rights activist and director of Centre for Social Change and Equity, Vijay Walia, however, told The Indian Express that “all the amount released by Punjab BOCW Welfare Board should be reimbursed to the Board with interest”. Calling it “contempt of court”, Walia asserted that as per a Supreme Court order dating back to February 2012, “funds for labour welfare cannot be diverted for any other purposes”, an allegation Janjua has denied.

Walia alleged that “un-registered” workers were also vaccinated in the drive and to “cover up”, the labour department had registered them “without factoring in mandatory provisions like proof of 90 days of their working as construction labour and bank account details”. Janjua has denied the allegations.

Walia, meanwhile, said, “We will file a writ petition, seeking a probe by the CBI into this.”

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