Why in news?

Central government organizations involved in construction, including various metro rail corporations, were instructed by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to ensure that “all labour personnel/staff” returning to work from 20th April 2020 have downloaded the government’s COVID-19 tracking app — Aarogya Setu.

Why was this needed?

  • While the country remains in a lockdown till May 3, migrant workers, including construction workers, have been left with no work and no income during the period.
  • The advisory comes as the Union Home Affairs Ministry has relaxed some restrictions starting 20th April, including for construction activity under certain conditions.
  • On 19th April, the MHA issued an order allowing stranded migrant workers to return to their workplaces within the State they are located in provided they are asymptomatic.

Criticisms about how migrant workers are handled

  • While the Labour Ministry has asked States to provide construction workers aid through their respective Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Boards, the reality was that the majority of migrant workers were not registered with these Boards and/or did not they have bank accounts are required for transfer of funds.
  • Trade unions also expressed concerns over the government’s decision to start movement of labourers within States/UTs.
  • When it concerns use of Aarogya Setu App, the criticism is based on assumption of number of migrant labourers using smartphones.

Aarogya Setu App

  • Aarogya Setu (lit. ’Health Bridge’) is a COVID-19 tracking mobile application developed by the National Informatics Centre that comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.
  • The stated purpose of this app is to spread the awareness and to connect essential health services to the people of India.
  • This app will augment the initiatives of the Department of Health to contain the risks of COVID-19, and sharing the best practices and advisories.
  • This is a tracking app which uses smartphone’s GPS and Bluetooth features to track the coronavirus infection. Aarogya Setu app is available for Android and iOS mobile operating systems.
  • Using Bluetooth technology, the Aarogya Setu app tries to determine the risk if one has been near a Covid-19 infected person (within six feet of distance) by scanning through a database of known cases across India, and using location information it determines the location one is in belongs to the infected areas based on the data available.

Central Public Works Department (CPWD)

  • The Central Public Works Department of India is a premier Central Government authority in charge of public sector works.
  • The CPWD, under the Ministry of Urban Development now MoHUA (Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs), deals with buildings, roads, bridges, flyovers, complicated structures like stadiums, auditoriums, laboratories, bunkers, border fencing, border roads (hill roads), etc.
  • CPWD came into existence in July 1854 when Lord Dalhousie established a central agency for execution of public works and set up Ajmer Provincial Division.
  • It has now grown into a comprehensive construction management department, which provides services from project concept to completion, and maintenance management.
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