Covid effect: Social security cover for migrant workers on cards

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Published: May 31, 2020 1:00 AM

With the plight of migrant workers under the national glare amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the parliamentary standing committee on labour is set to pitch for a credible social security cover for them with statutory backing.

Members of the committee, cutting across party lines, have already discussed this idea among themselves and will firm up the proposal as they meet on June 5.

With the plight of migrant workers under the national glare amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the parliamentary standing committee on labour is set to pitch for a credible social security cover for them with statutory backing.
Members of the committee, cutting across party lines, have already discussed this idea among themselves and will firm up the proposal as they meet on June 5.

Besides, the committee might also urge the government to extend the policy of national portability of ration cards announced recently to assorted other benefits, such as MGNREGA, Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and the Ujjwala (LPG) scheme. Seamless portability of voluntary social security schemes and other sops without distinguishing between place of origin and place of work is expected to make a meaningful difference to the lives of these workers.

Sources said as they step out of their place of origin, most do not get benefits under Public Distribution System (PDS), MGNREGA, Atal Pension Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Ujjwala and others at their places of work since they often can’t submit details such as their address proof, mandatory for getting such benefits.
“While staying at her native place, she is entitled to the benefits given to her now under various schemes and welfare benefits now, but if she migrates she does not get those benefits. Can’t we register such set of workers? Can’t they be given a portable identification card with a unique workers’ identification number so that portability of the social security and welfare schemes become easier?,” a senior member of the committee asked.

The government has already started working on its one-nation-one-ration card mission, but spreading it out to across the length and breadth of the country would take some time. Had the scheme been put in place throughout the country, the reverse movement of crores of migrant labourers now underway would have been curbed, he said.
Currently, social security schemes under ESIC and EPFO for organised sector workers are portable. ESIC subscribers are eligible to avail benefits at any part of the country, while EPFO is providing its subscribers with a portable universal account (UAN) number that remains the same throughout even if one switches jobs.

Under the labour code on social security, the labour ministry had earlier proposed to universalise social security for all sets of workers, but the Bill it introduced in Lok Sabha in December last year proposed to form a National Social Security Board that would recommend the Centre suitable schemes for the different section of unorganised sector workers. The Bill also proposes to empower the Centre to constitute a social security fund for provision of social security for the unorgansied workers, platform workers or gig workers or any such class of workers.

The data on migration by last residence in India as per Census 2001 shows that the total number of migrants has been 314 million. Of these migrants, 268 million (85%) have been those who migrated from one ares of the state to another area within the state. Some 41 million (13%) were inter-state migrants. The rest migrated outside of the country.

The parliamentary standing committee on labour, chaired by headed by BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, while studying the labour code on operational safety, health and working conditions, had rejected labour ministry’s proposal of arrogating to itself the power to fix the wage floor for inter-state migrant workers in the name of uniformity across the country.

If any state government wants to set minimum wages higher than prescribed by the Centre for inter-state migrant workers, it should be free to do so, it had said.

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