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THE UNORGANISED SECTOR WORKERS SOCIAL SECURITY ACT, 2008 THE NATIONAL CENTRE FOR LABOUR APPROACH

After a lapse of nearly six decades, the Ministry of Labour, Government of India initiated the process of enacting a luke warm legislation providing a measure of social security for the vast segment of unorganized sector work force in the country. It is a well known fact that it is these workers who contribute substantially to the National Income and who are totally neglected by the Government in ensuring the social security protection, which is a fundamental human right for this unprotected working class in the country. It is agonizing to note that the legislation in its present form would be a mere paper document for ever. The Government has vested all its intelligentsia in framing the present structure of the Act, so that nothing in reality would reach the toiling masses in the country. The legislation is too narrow in its construction and broadly strengthens the goal of Bureaucratic dominance. If one undertakes a pragmatic assessment of the working of various social welfare schemes launched by the Central as well as State Governments over the years, hardly the beneficiaries received the ensured amount for various reasons. Substantial ratio of the provided amount was either unspent or diverted for other purposes by the State Agency under these welfare Programmes. Amid these existing controversies, the legislation seeks to strengthen the existing social welfare schemes through the inbuilt legal mechanism in order to provide further space for the State Agency to play systematically with the lives of the unorganized sector work force in the Country. About the Legislation : The following are the inbuilt vices contained in the Legislation -1. At the out set the Act limits the provision of entire welfare schemes contained in the Act only to the schemes mentioned in the Schedule. (Section 3 (1) read with sub. Section (2)).

2. All the efforts made if at all by the National and State Social Security Advisory Boards in the years to come would prima facie include or apply only to those Schemes or Employments, which are clearly specified in the Schedule,

unless the Schedule is duly amended by the Central Government from time to time. The power to amend the Schedule ought to have been vested with the appropriate Government by defining the term appropriate Government including both the Central and State Government in the clause. Further there is no provision in the Act which vests deemed power with the Central Government providing that when once the Schedule is varied by the Central Government deeming that the Schedule is duly amended by the Parliament. Otherwise the Schedule cannot be amended or varied by the Central Government since the same amounts to the amendment of the legislation itself, which is exclusive demonian of the legislature, i.e. the Parliament.

3. The entire Schedule of the proposed new legal regime contains the social security schemes, which are either already prevailing or set to be implemented by the political pronouncements of the Government. In such situation the very essence of the legislation would merely lie as a paper document.

4. The very implementation of the proposed mechanism would depend on the sweet will of the Central Government. (see Section 11).

5. The Act seeks baptize the prevailing Social Welfare Schemes launched by the different Ministries of the Union and the States into a new nomenclature namely, Social Security Schemes.

6. The Government within a span of 8 years has appointed two high power Commissions namely, the National Commission on Labour (1999) and the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (2004) with a specific task of recommending appropriate social security mechanism for the unorganized sector workers. Today the Government has totally confined these

recommendations to the shelves and making pragmatic efforts to introduce a new regime just to strengthen the existing mal functioning social welfare schemes.

7. The Act under Section 2 (l) defines unorganized sector, which in fact omit millions of unorganized sector workers from the purview of the legislation.

8. Under Section 3 of the Act, there is no time bound frame work for the Central Government to formulate various social security schemes. The Schemes specified there under are sector/employment wise social security schemes in contrast to universal social security schemes for the entire unorganized sector work force in the country.

9. The creation of the social security fund under Section 4 and 7 under the Act lacks totally the structured arrangement which would be suicidal in ensuring the social security benefits for the vast segment of unorganized sector workers population.

10. The basic issue namely, the delivery of the social security benefits to the eligible worker is vaguely designed in the proposed mechanism depicting clearly the hidden motive of integrating the proposed mechanism with the already existing welfare schemes.

11. The expenditure for the functioning of the Advisory Boards at the National and State level under the proposed mechanism was not addressed in the statute and leaves it for executive control.

12. The mechanism pertaining to the registration of a worker under Section 10 of the Act would depend upon the

formulation of a specific social security scheme which is a contingent aspect under the proposed mechanism.

13. No statutory provision for the registration of the employer under the provisions of the present mechanism.

The Needs of Millions of Unprotected Labour Population in terms of a Protective Legislation: 1. The much awaited Legislation should contain clear details of every aspect relating to the Social Security for the Unorganised Sector Workers namely, --

i.

The date of Commencement of the Legislation must be clearly specified in the Statute itself.

ii.

There must not be any attempt to define jurisdictionally the term unorganised sector worker in the Definitions Clause rather it must be by way of inclusive of all workers employed in the Schedule Employments subject to a ceiling salary limit.

iii.

The Social Security Benefits must need a clear mention in the Statute covering the (a) death, (b) disablement, (c) old age, (d) medical and sickness and (e) maternity benefits.

iv.

The creation of a Social Security Fund at the Central as well as at the State level need a clear attention in the Statute itself and the sources of its pooling through the contributions of the workers, employer and the State need a definite mention in the Statute.

v.

The manner in which the eligible worker registered and issued the identity card and the role of the workers organisations etc. in this regard must need a clear mention in the Statute.

vi.

The manner in which the benefits should be delivered to the beneficiary and the role of the workers organisations in this regard need a clear details in the legislation

2. The proposed legislation must find a place of mention of the matters relating to,--

i. ii.

Redressal of grievances of the workers in matters relating to conditions of work and livelihood; and Redressal of grievances in matters relating to wages.

Thus any attempt to provide a comprehensive social security mechanism for the unorganised sector work force in the country must be from the point of view of pragmatic approach rather a paper approach as is seen in the present political regime.