On the unorganized worker.
1. The much sought after The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 belied the aspirations of 93% of the Indian workforce and is lying in an inanimate state.
2. The Central Government framed Rules under the UWSS Act and constituted The National Social Security Board for the Unorganized worker, as per the Act. The Board met for four times, but did not frame welfare schemes so far. Identification of the beneficiaries and issue of identity cards have not yet commenced. Above all, the Government of India did not allot welfare fund, which is crucial. The Finance Minister had allotted Rs. 1000 crs. in the budget of 2010-11 for the unorganized workers welfare Fund. But it is not known whether it is for utilization under the UWSS Act. Neither, there has been any sign of having spent the fund in the welfare of unorganized worker in any other manner nor the whereabouts of the fund are available.
3. The existing welfare schemes for few categories of unorganized sector workers are brought under the UWSS Act, namely :
(a). Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme,(b)National Family Benefit Scheme, (c) Janani Suraksha Yojana, (d). Handloom Weavers’ Coop. Welfare Scheme, (e). Hndicraft Artisans’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme, (f). Pension to Master Crafts Persons, (g). National Scheme for Welfare of Fishermen and Training Extension, (h). Janshree Bima Yojana, (i). Aam Admi Bima Yojana, (j). Rashtriya Swastya Bima Yojana. It is deplorable to note that not even a single worker was given the benefit of these schemes during the last 3 years under the UWSS.
4. The State Governments are empowered to deliver benefits to the unorganized sector workers by framing Rules, constituting State Social Security Boards and allotting welfare Fund. But so far not a single State Government has taken up the process of implementation of the UWSS Act. It is to recall that during the consultations preparatory to the passage of the legislation, the State Governments expressed against providing of fund and volunteered to arrange for benefit delivery. It appears that they stood their ground. In the result, the unorganized sector worker is left high and dry, and the welfare remained a mirage. Government of India should realize the gravity of the situation.
5. The Trade Unions, on their part have been demanding for setting up of welfare fund and implementation of the UWSS Act. 9 Central Trade Unions held a national convention on 14th September, 2009 at Mavlankar Hall New Delhi and in continuation conducted programmes throughout the Country. But there is no response from the Government, except allotment of Rs. 1000 cr. in the Budget of 2010-11, where abouts of which are not known.
6. The UWSS Act is plagued with basic infirmities and lacunae. To mention few :-
(a)The workers in the organized sector are entitled for securing benefits under the existing Acts. Due to certain restrictive clauses and thresholds like the number of workers employed, infancy period of the enterprise and length of the service of the workers, the Acts are not applicable. The manipulations and lack of will on the part of employers and the apathy of the Government machinery deprived a majority of the workers in the organized sector from the coverage benefits of the Acts. Such workers are termed as “unorganized workers in the organized sector” and brought under the purview of the UWSS Act. This is against the basic objective for which the Act was conceived.
(b) The job of identification of beneficiaries, issuance of identity cards, delivery of benefits and maintenance of records is sought to be entrusted to the District Administration, the Municipal and Panchayat Raj institutions. Besides being over burdened with their own work, these institutions are lacking in credibility and sincerity of purpose.
(c) The UWSS Act has no provisions related to wage and service conditions for wage workers and avenues of employment and related assistance for self employed workers.
7. As regards the earlier enactments for the unorganized workers, the Beedi and Cigar workers Act 1966, the Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1976 have become redundant due to fund crunch. Various State Governments have not taken up implementation of The Building and Other Construction Workers (RECS) Act, 1996 by issuing identity cards to construction workers and delivery of benefits. Besides, the State Governments are not sincere in collection of welfare fund as stipulated in the Act.
8. The 16th Triennial National Conference of BMS held at Jalgaon (Maharashtra) from 19 to 21st February, 2011 demands the following.
(a) The UWSS Act, 2008 should be amended (i) to cover only the unorganized sector workers and the self employed workers, (ii) to provide for wage rates and service conditions for the wage workers and avenues of employment and earnings and the attendant facilities like place to work, availability and access to the inputs/raw materials, storage, marketing, finance for the self employed workers, (iii) to set up an independent machinery to administer the UWSS Act by the Central Government, on the lines of EPF and ESIC Organisations, (iv) to empower the National Social Security Board and State Boards to frame welfare schemes and to administer and monitor,
(b) Welfare fund, equivalent to 5% of GDP should be provided.
© A separate comprehensive Law should be enacted for the
agriculture and allied sector workers.
(d) The Government should streamline the Beedi Workers Welfare Fund collection, including from the small manufacturers, and allot adequate further fund to the Beedi workers welfare fund, and ensure benefit delivery to all the beedi workers. The rate of benefits should be increased in view of the high inflation.
(e) The Central Government should take stringent steps against the State Governments and ensure coverage of all the construction workers and full implementation of the BOCW(RECS) Act, 1996. The scheme benefits should be widened and rate be increased. Also, the implementation of the portion related to conditions of service should be enforced.
(f) The Central Government should set up a negotiating forum to settle problems of workers in the unorganized sector under all Acts.