The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pension bill nod

New Delhi, Sept. 26: A group of ministers headed by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today cleared a bill which seeks to provide multiple social security benefits to almost 370 million unorganised sector workers. The bill will now be sent to the Cabinet for approval and then passed in Parliament.

The bill had been sent back at an earlier Cabinet meeting to the group, which includes law minister Arun Jaitley, petroleum minister Ram Naik and agriculture minister Rajnath Singh.

The legislation seeks to provide a safety net for workers who have no legal rights at present. It aims at providing life insurance and medical insurance to the workers, ensuring minimum wages and pension. Under the scheme, welfare funds will be created both at the Centre and in the states for running the scheme.

But the funding of the scheme remains unclear. Union labour minister Sahib Singh Verma said workers with less than 35 years of service will contribute Rs 2 a day to a joint fund. Those with more than 35 years will contribute Rs 3 every day.

Employers will contribute Rs 100 for every worker with less than 35 years of work and Rs 200 for those with more than 35 years.

Verma proposed levying an additional surcharge on petroleum to add to the fund. The minister plans to ask the finance ministry for additional funds.

Once the law comes into force, a worker with a family of five can claim up to Rs 30,000 every year for medical treatment and Rs 1 lakh as insurance.

Verma said the financial burden of the social security net would work out to Rs 1,000 crore every year in case 50 lakh workers are roped in every year.

Though the modalities of the bill are yet to be worked out, the BJP is keen to introduce it in the winter session of Parliament beginning in November with an eye on the coming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

Verma said the scheme would allow non-governmental organisations to have better access to workers.

Left trade unions are not in favour of the scheme. They have described the bill as half-baked and have sent along many suggestions to fine-tune the bill.

The Indian Trade Union Congress (Intuc) said workers below the poverty line could not be expected to pay Rs 2 or 3 a day. “We would want the government to take the responsibility of pitching in with the money,” Chandidas Sinha, an Intuc leader, said.

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