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Gujarat model 'revealed': Social security benefit, paid leave, written contract elude majority workers

By Rajiv Shah
Fresh data released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), India’s premier data collection centre between decadal censuses, have revealed that, far from being a model for the country to follow, Gujarat under the years under Narendra Modi as chief minister (2001-14) failed to take care of the workers’ plight in the huge informal sector which is shaping up following the state’s fast-growing industrialization. According to the NSSO, the informal sector workers make up nearly 75 per cent of the state’s workforce employed in the non-agricultural sector (both rural and urban), and the workers in this sector particularly have massively failed to get any social security benefits, including paid leave. With wages one of the lowest in India, the workers in this sector suffer even more.
The NSSO data suggest that, as against the all-India average of 72 per cent workers not getting any social security benefits – essential during the transitional phase of an economy – Gujarat’s proportion is 75 per cent. Worse, even some of the poorer Bimaru states have begun to perform better on this front. Thus, Odisha’s 74 per cent workers are outside the social security net, followed by Madhya Pradesh (70 per cent), Bihar (69 per cent), and Assam (58 per cent). In fact, if the data reveal, 11 out of 20 major Indian states perform better than Gujarat. The NSSO report states, social security mainly consists of “provident fund (PF) scheme, gratuity and, health care and maternity benefits.” It adds, “Non-availability of social security benefits is a measure of insecurity in the job one performs.”

The report says, the proportion of employees not eligible for any social security benefit was higher for the construction sector as also in wholesale and retail trade, activities of households as employers, “and undifferentiated goods and services producing activities of households”. It adds, “The proportion of employees not eligible for any social security benefit was considerably lower for the industries public administration and defence, compulsory social security, education, industries information and communication, financial and insurance activities, and public administration.” Titled “Informal Sector and Conditions of Employment in India”, and finalized in July 2014, the report is based on survey it carried out between July 2011 and June 2012.
Coming to paid leave, which is essential for anyone falling ill, the NSSO finds that Gujarat’s 73 per cent workers do not get the facility – which higher than all but six of the 20 major states. Here also several “backward” states are found to be performing better – Chhattisgarh’s 72 per cent workers do not get paid leave, followed by Madhya Pradesh (71 per cent), Assam (64.1 per cent), and so on. While no reasons have been forwarded for this state of affairs, the NSSO data suggest at least one thing very clearly – that Gujarat may be suffering because of lack of workers’ participation in unions and associations, must for putting up collective demands.
Thus, the NSSO report states, Gujarat’s 87.3 per cent workers are not associated with any union or association, which is higher than most of the 20 major states with the exception of just four states – Rajasthan (90 per cent), Odisha (89 per cent), Jharkhand (88 per cent), and Himachal Pradesh (67 per cent). The national average on this score is 80 per cent. Kerala has the least percentage of workers who are not unionized – 45 per cent, followed by Assam (70 per cent), Karnataka (71 per cent), Punjab (73 per cent), Tamil Nadu (74 per cent), West Bengal (77 per cent), Bihar (78 per cent), Maharashtra (81 per cent), and so on. 
Poor unionization also means poor wages – the average wage (for both casual and salaried classes) in Gujarat were Rs 268 per day, as India's Rs 322, and worse than all states except Chhattisgarh ( Rs 237), Bihar (Rs 239), Odisha (Rs 255), Madhya Pradesh (Rs 261), and Uttar Pradesh (Rs 265). It also means a lower proportion of workers enter into contractual agreement for work. NSSO data show that 82 per cent of the workers in Gujarat work without any written contract, as against the all-India figure of 79 per cent. Only five of 20 major states have a higher proportion of workers working without contractual agreement -- Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. 

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