Skip to main content

Govt of India seeks to "water down" social security for unorganized sector workers

By Vipul Pandya* 
Even as the Government of India is planning to come up with Labour Code on Social Security and Welfare Bill, 2018, several Gujarat-based trade unions and NGOs working in different unorganized sectors held a meeting at Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad, on January 3, 2019, to analyze it’s provisions, pointing towards how it is a step in the wrong direction in the name of labour reforms. Organized by Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan (BMS), the on-day consultation suggested that the Government of India is seeking to water down the present welfare schemes for the unorganized sector.
It is the third revised draft Social Security Code. It has been revised in the name of reform, but the basic concept of having one welfare board at the state level and one national board has been further watered down by turning them into advisory boards. Many of ills of the previous drafts continue. Even though the proposal to repeal Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) and Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Acts has been dropped, 11 labour welfare laws, including two Building and other Constriction Workers Welfare (BOCW) Acts, 1996, are being repealed.
The Acts proposed to be repealed are:  
  • The Employees Compensation Act, 1923 
  • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 
  • The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 
  • The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 
  • The Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore MinesLabour Welfare Fund Act, 1976 
  • The Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1976 
  • The Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981 
  • The Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare (Cess) Act, 1976 
  • The Beedi Workers Welfare (Cess) Act, 1976 
  • The Building and Other Constriction Workers Welfare (Cess) Act, 1996 
  • Building and Other constriction workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act, 1996 
There are several outstanding issues in the revised draft. Thus, the definition of the unorganised worker does not include domestic worker in Section 2.1. This is over and above the fact that, while the structure of the national social security board and state welfare board has been changed to include some level of representation to the unorganized workers, the representation is not even one third.
Further, the functions of the national social security board in the draft are purely advisory in nature and its decisions are not binding, even though the draft says that the Central government “shall formulate and notify”, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganized workers on matter relating to life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits, and old age protection and any other benefit (Section 65.1).
Similarly, the draft says that the State government may formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganized workers, including schemes relating to provident fund, employment injury benefit, housing, educational schemes for children, skill upgradation of workers, funeral assistance, and old age homes (Section 65.2).
However, like the national board, functions of the state welfare board, too, are proposed to be purely advisory, and there is no provision for compulsory registration of employers. Worse, even the registration of workers is not compulsory. In fact, there is no regulation for employment and wages, and the welfare provisions for unorganised workers exclude domestic workers.
The draft says that registration of workers, which is not compulsory, would be done for the unorganised workers on completion of 14 years of age (Section 68-1), which would mean legalising child labour. Further, for obtaining registration, the worker is supposed to satisfy a prescribed socio-economic criterion, which means that the Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) classification of unorganised workers would continue.
The draft says that building and other construction workers would be registered as a separate category, which means an appropriate government authority would be required for them. Thus, at the district level they would be registered through workers’ facilitation centres under the district administrations, which are already over-burdened. It also suggests that that the registration would not be administered by the welfare board or the labour department.
The draft requires that authentication of registration has to be provided by the employer in the building sector, and NGOs and advocates would assist the registration process, which indicates there no role for trade unions. As for those who are already registered in the existing BOCW welfare board or other welfare boards, since the two BOCW Acts and the Unorganized Workers Social Security (USWSS) Act, 2008 are proposed to be repealed, their cards would not be valid, and fresh registration would be required.
The draft provides for the creation of a new fund – a construction workers’ welfare fund – by collecting cess. However, the Central government has been empowered to exempt certain establishments from the payment of cess. Further, there is a mention of some income from grants and loans from Central and state Governments. But the quantum is not specified, even though the Parliamentary standing committee has stated that 3% of the budgetary allocation is necessary. Then, there is a mention about funds which could be collected for various categories of workers by the state government, but these would be constituted as separate funds.
The unorganised sector is in the dire need for regulation of employment and wages and suitable social security measures to be implemented through sectoral welfare boards for large sectors employing over 1 lakh workers in a state. However, the draft is quiet about this. Further, the BOCW welfare boards and other sectoral welfare schemes, as well as sectoral welfare boards existing in states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu, would be adversely affected by with the enactment of the proposed code.
There is a provision for the privatisation of certain activities in the draft (it was not there in the previous drafts), which is highly objectionable. Thus, the revised Draft’s Section 65.5 wants “Central and State Governments to provide for such matters necessary for efficient implementation of the scheme” including “agency or agencies that will implement the scheme.”
Seeking to do away with the enforcement of labour laws, especially maternity benefit, gratuity, cess etc., the draft talks of appointing only a facilitator who would facilitate the implementation of the legal provisions. On the other hand, there is a mention of having a controlling authority for implementing different schemes; perhaps this authority would function as a commissionerate. Indeed, there is no effort to make to make it participatory, as it excludes trade unions.
---
*With Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan. This is the modified version of the note prepared by the author for the Ahmedabad consultation

Comments

Anonymous said…
Can you let us know whether the Draft Act has been put in public domain or not, and if yes, then the web page where it has been uploaded??? In case it is not in public domain, can please provide us the copy of the said draft???

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen