B.K. Sahu, regional director of Employees’ State Insurance Corporation, met readers of The Telegraph and answered their queries. Participants included S.K. Pal, P.K. Kundu, Sandip Banerjee, Kalyan Ganguli, Ranajit Basu, Seema Ghosh, Basu Chowdhury and P. Barua
S.K. Pal: Who are the employees covered under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) security scheme'
The ESI facilities are extended to all employees working in the companies or organisations mentioned in the ESI lawbook. They cover permanent, casual, daily-wager and monthly-wager employees.
The employer or the organisation has to furnish the details of the employee from the day he has started working in that particular organisation. Once we get the information, we issue an identity card to the employee and he becomes an insured member of our corporation.
S.K. Pal: Can you brief us about the insurance scheme of your corporation'
The ESI is the largest social security scheme of the central government. In West Bengal, around 6.82 lakh workers from more than 15,000 industries are presently in our fold. Nearly three million people benefit from our schemes.
Apart from our state, the regional office at Calcutta is also looking after cases in adjacent states like Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and the north-eastern states. In our state, we have our offices in 10 districts. To provide adequate medical facilities, we have tied up with 13 hospitals, besides our own hospital at Joka. Also, we have an understanding with some reputed private hospitals in the state for super-speciality facilities.
P.K. Kundu: With the emergence of new sectors like information technology, many more workers and employees have been brought under the ESI fold. Do you have enough infrastructure to support these additional members'
From October 2006, we have raised the remuneration ceiling from Rs 7, 500 to Rs 10,000. As a result, we have 25,000 new members. We are going to extend our benefits to the workers of private medical units and private educational institutions, too. In future, I hope we will have several thousand more members.
Our infrastructure has been made and updated to cater to nearly 1.2 million members. We can comfortably handle the spurt in the number of our insured members. We are opening a few more branches in Kharagpur, West Midnapore and Kulti. We will be engaging more inspection officers to facilitate our operation in the eastern region.
Sandip Banerjee: Disputed cases related to ESI benefits are piling up in the court at New Secretariat. Why don’t you take some steps to expedite the hearing of the cases'
This is a major challenge before us. I met the judge and have taken a note of the infrastructure deficiencies. We have formed a special team of officers to monitor the disposal of the cases. The latest report is most of the old cases, which were pending before the court, have been solved. I hope that in a few months we will solve all the pending cases.
We have already written to the registrar of Calcutta High Court, to give us the list of cases where our corporation is involved. Once we get the list, we can make a report on the cases and help in solving them.
Kalyan Ganguli: Suppose a person is receiving ESI benefits and his contract with his present employer ceases. Will he continue to get his ESI benefits'
In such a case, the person may get his medical benefits even if his employment is terminated by his present employer. Such cases are generally considered if the recipient is already getting medical treatment under our schemes. There can be many aspects to such cases. For more details, one can meet the complaint officer or visit the regional director to clarify queries.
Ranajit Basu: Can you brief us about the frequent problems, related to the ESI benefits, in the jute industries'
There are some problems related to the ESI benefit disbursements that we have to tackle. For example, of the total ESI members in the country, the number of beneficiaries in the state is eight per cent.
These members are enjoying nearly 43 per cent of the ESI benefits including cash benefits. In jute industries of the state, we noticed anomalies and deputed our officials to study them in detail.
Earlier, we had decided that no cash benefits would be sanctioned if suspension of work was declared in any factory. We had taken up the matter with the state labour department. Talks are on to resolve the issue.