GYAN PATHAK

Social security coverage to entire workforce in India will remain a dream even if the Code on Social Security 2020 is implemented in the country. There is lack of enough provisions in it. Moreover, skilling to make our workforce future ready will also not be possible since several schemes are still on paper despite angelic words spoken about them.

The two reports presented by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, Textile, and Skill development in the Lok Sabha – one on ‘Social Security and Welfare Measures for Inter-State Migrant Workers’ and the other on ‘Implementation of National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS)/National Apprenticeship Training Scheme (NATS)’ – presents a grim picture in this regard.

The report on ‘Social Security and Welfare Measures for Inter-State Migrant Workers’ says that the Committee had in their 16th report (17th Lok Sabha) noted that there were no reliable or authentic figures on the total number of Inter-State Migrant Workers and the figures on the number of migrant workers who returned to their home states following the outbreak of the pandemic. They were not identified and with out identification and collation of data no social security scheme could be effectively extended. In the action taken report the Ministry of Labour has merely mentioned that they have developed e-Sharm Portal for registration and creations of a comprehensive National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW) which was launched in August 2021, and the portal will work as useful platform for delivery of existing and future social security schemes. Everybody known about the slow progress in the regard and hence the Committee has to recommend the Ministry of Labour to make concerted efforts in tandem with the states and UTs so as to ensure the registration of all types of unorganised workers which in turn would result in effectively delivering the existing and future social security schemes to the intended beneficiaries.

The Committee had also noted in its last report that while the existing unemployment insurance schemes vis. Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana (RGSKY) and Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana (ABVKY) covered employees who were under the ambit of the ESI Scheme, a large number of migrant labourers especially in unorganised sector were still left out of the ambit of the ESI Scheme thereby depriving them of any unemployment insurance or allowances with they needed the most during the pandemic.

However, the committee has noted that the benefit of ESI is presently available in only 578 notified districts in the country (out of 773). The Centre has informed the committee that it intends to extend the facility to all district in 2022. In the last report the committee had recommended that steps envisaged in the Social Security Codes, 2020 to extend coverage of the Code to the unorganised workers who were still left out of the ambit of ESI Scheme needed speedy implementation and enforcement.

However, in its action taken report the Ministry of Labour said that the ESI Act does not apply to the unorganised sector. Further the Code on Social Security 2020, has subsumed relevant provisions under the existing ESI Act and has also provisions for “scheme for unorganised, gig, and platform workers, the committee was informed, however, these it does not have express provision for providing unemployment allowance similar to those provided under RGSKY and ABVKY. The committee expressed its concern on this point and asked to explore the feasibility of incorporating an express provision for unemployment allowance to the workers in the unorganised sector through ESI in line with RGSKY and ABVKY.

As for the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna (PMGKAY)/One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) programme, the committee expressed concern over delayed foodgrain distribution, in some case over two months, despite the earlier recommendation of the committee for monthly distribution, and in some cases for bi-monthly as was done by Sikkim. However, committee’s concerns were not heard, and therefore has to recommend again for timely distribution of foodgrains instead of being piled up for months together.

The committee was also not satisfied with the reply of the Ministry of Labour on Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan, as the data of migrants imparted skills and got placement were not furnished. The Ministry was also silent about the steps taken to ensure for the remaining 23 identified and shortlisted districts out of 116 as such.

The report on NAPS and NATS says that the government was not even giving increased stipend for skill development to make workers future ready. The concern of the Committee is that despite the enhancement in the stipend amount to Rs. 9000 per month for Graduate Apprentices and Rs 8000 per month for Diploma Apprentices, they were being paid stipend as per the old rate of Rs. 4984 per month and Rs. 3542 per month respectively. It, therefore, becomes imperative on the part of the Department of Higher Education to ensure that all the Graduate and Diploma Apprentices are invariably paid the revised stipend amount with retrospective effect from 1st April, 2021. It was despite a suggestion by the Department that it would be appropriate to enhance the stipend amount to Rs 18000 per month for Graduate Apprentices and Rs. 15000 per month for Diploma Apprentices.

It clearly shows suggestions, claims, and decisions remained on paper. How can then the workforce of the country hope for full social security coverage especially when Modi government’s assurances proving empty? (IPA Service)