NDA Government’s Social Security Scheme for Unorganised Workers

As the BJP was talking about social security scheme (SSS) for unorganised workers, and the Congress too was talking about it, it appeared as if both the main ruling class parties had found a people’s issue to talk about. But don’t get mistaken. Congress was only complaing about election misconduct by BJP leaders committed while distributing the SSS application forms to their own mass base, and that the application forms had the lotus symbol on them. And to disclose the BJP’s scheme, let us get into its details.

In our country, imposition of POTA did not need consensus. Disinvestments were rushed through without consensus. But Women Reservation Bill still awaits consensus. And Social Security Scheme has been launched twice: once by the Labour Minister, and then by the Prime Minister, but never implemented. Now on the election eve with all fanfare it is being implemented just on a trial basis – only to 25 lakh unorganised workers in 500 districts. What is the basis of the BJP claim that 37 crore unorganised workers in the country including agricultural workers would be benefited from it?

Tens of crores of unorganised workers demand minimum wages, job security, social security benefits, protection from sexual harassment, cess fund etc., but first of all a separate legislation that will ensure all their demands. Agricultural labourers too demand a comprehensive national legislation. None was fulfilled by the NDA government. However, at the end of its innings it came out with a mere social security scheme without any legal entitlement! What else can prove better the BJP’s scant regard for the demands of the toiling lot of the country?

The much-trumpeted SSS is nothing but an election eyewash, which will be clear from the following.

The good sounding part is: the scheme offers a pension of Rs. 500 per month after 60 years of age; Rs. 1 lakh for accident death; Rs. 548 per year for a family of 5, Rs. 365 per year for a family of 3 for medical expenses; and widow pension. Besides workers, employers and the government would also contribute to the fund of the scheme. Now hear the catch: workers of age 36-50 will be paying Rs. 100 per month, and those above 50 will be paying Rs. 200 per month; if the employer is identifiable, he will pay the similar amount, and if the employer is unidentifiable, the worker himself will be paying that share also. And then comes the interesting clause. The Government will pay only 1.16% of Rs. 1800 for a worker and not even incur administrative expenses, which will be covered by 1% of the fund.

If a worker fails to pay his contribution for 12 months continuously he/she will cease to be a member. The foremost fraudulence of the scheme emanates from the idea of distinguishing the employer as ‘identifiable’ and ‘unidentifiable’ and thus, the employer can easily make himself ‘unidentifiable’ and get absolved of his responsibility toward the worker.

Next is about the role of the government. Not only its contribution is negligible, it exempts itself from any responsibility of implementing the scheme physically by saying that the administrative cost will be borne by the fund itself. There is no separate implementation body for the scheme and it will be implemented by the Employee Provident Fund Organisation.

How is the SSS fund expected to work? Experience of welfare boards for construction workers is a pointer to this. While crores of rupees contributed by the workers to the welfare fund is lying with the government, a paltry sum is spent on the welfare schemes. In Tamil Nadu, the welfare board for construction workers obtained Rs. 57 crores through workers’ contribution, whereas only Rs. 6.5 cr has been spent on the welfare schemes between 1994 to 2003. Of this, Rs. 5 crore was paid as compensation for death. The SSS for the unorganised is not going to be different. Workers’ hard-earned money will get accumulated in the government coffers and after too much hardship a handful of them will get very little of their own money in need.

Can all those workers covered by the scheme pay Rs. 200 or 100 regularly? The government knows they cannot. Because the government has not honoured the recommendations of its own commission on minimum wages and other social security benefits. By announcing the SSS instead the BJP has sealed off the avenues before the unorganized workers to secure anything from the government.

The only answer to this treachery by the BJP government on the part of the unorganised workers can be a crushing blow to this government in the form of defeat in the coming parliamentary elections.

– Bhuvana