WE want universal social security, that is, social security for all workers, wherever they might be working.
Today a very small section of workers, mainly in the organised sector only are covered by social security benefits like provident fund, ESI, medical benefits, maternity benefit, accident compensation, gratuity, pension etc. Given the tardy enforcement mechanism, encouraged by the governments themselves, even fifty percent of the workers in the organised sector, particularly the contract workers, are also deprived of their legitimate social security benefits.
Despite contributing to over 60 percent of the country’s GDP, the unorganised sector workers do not get any social security benefits. Some segments of the unorganised sector workers like the beedi workers, construction workers, mine workers, cine workers etc are of course statutorily entitled to some social security benefits. But not even 30% of these workers are covered in practice because of the total absence of effective enforcement machinery for these schemes, either at the central level or in the states.
Ensuring ‘ease of doing business’ for the employers has become a priority under the neoliberal policies. For the present Modi led BJP government, this appears to be the determining factor of government policy. Enforcement of labour laws is the first casualty of such a policy. During the last one and a half decade, hardly 25% of the fund collected through cess for the construction workers’ welfare scheme was spent on providing benefits to the construction workers. The situation related to beedi workers and others is not much different.
The BJP led government’s high decibel advertisements proclaim that its Code on Social Security is going to cover the entire workforce including the rickshaw pullers and domestic workers.
But cover with what? There is no answer. No specific social security scheme is proposed.
Who will be covered exactly? Establishments will have to be registered for the workers to be covered. The threshold number of workers will be decided by the government. What will be the threshold level? This BJP government has raised the threshold level of employment under the Factories Act to 40. That means that more than 72 percent of factory workers who were being covered by the Factories Act will now be thrown out. Will the factories with less than 40 workers be eligible for registration under the Code on Social Security? Will the workers of these establishments be eligible for whatever benefits are provided under this Code? No answer.
What is clear is that the government is not contributing a single paisa for social security for the workers. (Except of course spending some thousands of crores of rupees on advertisements, to secure its own future and to benefit the owners of corporate media) Unorganised workers will have to contribute at the rate of 12.5% of their wages for the social security benefits. If the employers are not identifiable, the workers are categorised as self employed and they have to contribute 20% of their earnings.
15 existing social security legislations –
- Employees State Insurance Act
- Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, the
- Employees Compensation Act
- Maternity Benefits Act
- Payment of Gratuity Act
- Unorganised Workers Social Security Act
- Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act
- Beedi Workers Welfare Cess Act
- Beedi Workers Welfare Fund Act
- Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare Cess Act
- Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Welfare Fund Act
- Mica Mines Labour Welfare Cess Act, the
- Limestone and Dolomite Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act
- Cine Workers Welfare Cess Act and
- Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, - are amalgamated into this Code on Social Security.
The entire fund with the existing central funds like the EPF, ESI, CMPF, Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund etc, amounting to around Rs 12 lakh crore, along with the huge amount that will be collected from the unorganised workers and self employed, will be placed at the disposal of the National Council of Social Security, to be chaired by the Prime Minister. There will be an advisory Board to advise the National Council of Social Security. But this will not be strictly tripartite in composition. It is deliberately meant to undermine trade unions’ representation. This will then be made available for speculation in the share market to satisfy the finance capital lobby.
But while hijacking the entire fund vested in 15 Social Security schemes as per the legislations, the Social Security Code has not specified anything on the social security benefit that would be delivered to workers. The government may leave that to be decided by beaurocrats through rules, once the legislation on Social Security Code is passed by Parliament. But the net results of the entire exercise would be that even the guaranteed social security benefits under EPF, ESI, Construction Workers Welfare Scheme, Beedi Workers Welfare Scheme being delivered through concerned organisations will stand dismantled and demolished. The Social Security Code proposed by the government does not ensure at all the continuity of those benefits under the proposed Code – a novel exercise of deception and fraud!
IS THE SOCIAL SECURITY CODE A SOCIAL PROTECTION OR BLATANT DECEPTION?
Remember, the erstwhile UPA government had enacted the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act in 2009. No new social security benefit had been formulated under that Act; neither during the tenure of the UPA government nor under the present BJP led Modi government. No funds were allotted for the social security schemes under this Act; either by the then UPA government or by the present BJP government. Only some already existing social security schemes, most of them meant for BPL people were made applicable to the unorganised workers. The present government made even the National Social Security Board constituted under the Act totally non functional. Some of the old schemes were discontinued and launched with new names.
Cutting down social welfare expenditure and pampering the big corporates, big business and finance capital – is the hallmark of neoliberal policies. And this BJP government led by Modi can stoop down to any level of fraud and deception to befool the people while serving their corporate masters. The Social Security Code is an exemplarily dubious exercise in that direction.
WHAT IS ACTUALLY REQUIRED?
If the government is really serious of providing social security benefits to all workers, it has to:
- Strengthen the existing social security schemes under the concerned legislations; take stringent measures to ensure their effective implementation
- Widen the coverage to all entitled workers under the concerned legislations; today social security schemes like EPF, ESI and the other 13 do not cover even 50 percent of the workers legally entitled to these benefits
- Put in place a government funded comprehensive social security scheme ensuring health care including maternity, accident protection, superannuation for pension, children’s education etc for all other sections of working people including agricultural workers and peasants, with a token contribution just to facilitate enrolment
This is possible. We have adequate resources. What is required is the will to formulate policies to serve the people and not the corporate-business nexus.
The ‘Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally’ before parliament on September 5 is to demand such effective social security for all working people; to warn the BJP led Modi government that policies aimed at dismantling existing and functional social security schemes and legislations will not be tolerated
Let us Unite! Fight!
- No to governments that work for the 0.1%
- For policies that benefit the 99.9%