To quell labour unrest, smart cards ‘U-WIN’ for unorganised sector in the works

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New Delhi | Updated: May 26, 2015 8:02:25 AM

Under the new scheme, unorganised sector workers are expected to get multiple facilities through new smart cards called U-WIN.

labour reformsUnder the new scheme, unorganised sector workers are expected to get multiple facilities through new smart cards called U-WIN. (Reuters)

With the possibility of a nationwide stir by trade unions looming large, the NDA government plans to announce the roll-out of a new overarching social security scheme for the country’s unorganised workers. This, the government hopes, will blunt the anti-labour charge levelled against it by both workers groups and opposition parties.

Unorganised sector workers, who account for an estimated 82.7 per cent of the country’s total labour force, have largely been out of the ambit of labour regulations and most social schemes. Under the new scheme, they are expected to get multiple facilities through new smart cards called U-WIN, or the unorganised workers’ identification number.

The cards will be marketed as a starting point for the formulation of schemes to provide life and disability cover — including health and maternity benefits as well as old-age protection — for unorganised sector workers. This has been a key demand of 12 Central trade unions for a while now.

The strike called by trade unions on Tuesday is meant to register their protest against the changes proposed by the Centre in the Industrial Disputes Act and other labour regulations, the Centre’s disinvestment policy and the recent proposal to allow investment of Employees Provident Funds Organisation (EPFO) money into equities.

According to a labour ministry official, through the registration and issuance of U-WIN cards, the government also intends to create a Central-level database of all unorganised sector workers in the country. Details of these workers are generally sketchy, which makes enrolling them for schemes difficult.

As it stands, the cards will be issued by the district administration of each state, which have been asked to prepare a roll-out plan. Officials said the project is proposed to be funded largely by the Centre and will subsequently be linked to Aadhaar and bank accounts of these workers.

Officials said the new cards will ensure that all unorganised workers get social security scheme benefits covered under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. “We hope to provide primary, preventive and even secondary health services to unorganised workers, besides life insurance and pension, through this single card,” an official said.

To register, a person must be at least 14 years of age and must issue a self-declaration that he or she is an unorganised worker. “This card, when linked with the Aadhaar number and bank account number, will provide a platform for various social security schemes implemented by ministries and departments. Given its outreach and volume, it would be a major step towards bringing social security schemes for unorganised workers under one umbrella,” the official said.

The card, launched on December 25, 2014 in Gujarat on a pilot basis, will eventually replace the earlier smart card issued under the Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojana.

As per latest data from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the country’s labour force comprises at estimated 48.37 crore people, out of which 47.28 crore people are said to be employed. The unorganised labour, according to NSSO estimates, accounts for 82.7 per cent of the total labour force, including a significant share of workers engaged in low income generating activities.

To issue the cards, the labour ministry has evolved a system for coordination with the state labour department, officials said. They added that based on consultations with the state labour secretaries, detailed guidelines for registration of unorganised workers have been prepared and circulated to them.

As migrant workers occupy a major chunk of these unorganised workers, to check the possibility of duplication in registration of these workers, the U-WIN card will be authenticated by Aadhaar and a biometric de-duplication software in-built in the UIDAI database, officials said.

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