Almost one-third of Gujarat’s population, comprising nearly 1.72 crore people in the unorganised labour force, can now hope for a social security net around them.
This is thanks to the Unorganised Sector Workers Social Security Bill, 2008, which was passed by the Parliament in the recently concluded Winter Session.
The Bill, which is an enabling legislation, incorporates 11 social security schemes.
It also has provision for a 34-member National Social Security Board that will take decisions relating to the schemes.
It mandates the Gujarat government to formulate and notify welfare schemes relating to provident fund, employment injury benefit, housing, education for children, skill upgradation, funeral assistance and old age homes.
The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) informed that although Gujarat already has schemes like group insurance for landless agricultural labourers, fishermen, forest workers, salt workers, and the Shramik
Suraksha Scheme, the problem has been that the acts, as they exist today, apply only to workers with a clear employer-employee relationship.
Manali Shah of SEWA, an Ahmedabad-based trade union of unorganised sector having nearly 11 lakh members across India, said, “We welcome this Bill as it proposes to change that.”
The Bill redefines ‘unorganised worker’ to include all types of workers — those with a fixed employer, self-employed, casual labourers, contract-based and home-based among others.
It identifies each unorganised worker and gives a unique social security number and social security card to each of them.
The Bill offers a variety of social security benefits, including health insurance, maternity benefits, and pensions among others.
This Bill will also benefit Senior Citizens.
It binds the Centre to provide a minimum amount of benefits and funds. It creates a participatory structure, an architecture that works with the government and includes civil society groups and semi-government organisations.
A glance at the social security schemes under the Bill
1. National Old Age Pension Scheme
2. National Family Benefit Scheme
3. National Maternity Benefit Scheme
4. Mahatma Gandhi Bunkar Bima Yojana
5. Health Insurance Scheme for Handloom Weaver
6. Scheme for Pension to Master Craftsperson
7. Group Accident Insurance Scheme for Active Fishermen
8. Saving-Cum-Relief for Fishermen
9. Janshree Bima Yojana
10. Aam Admi Bima Yojana
11. Swasthya Bima Yojana
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