The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll light blinking, govt pilots social security

New Delhi, Jan. 7: Mixing poll business with pure business, the government today took several decisions, headlined by a social security scheme for some 35 crore unorganised workers.

It also approved guidelines for negotiation of wage revision for another large chunk of the workforce — in the public sector.

The social security scheme, which comes in place of a proposed legislation that could have entailed a cess on petrol, will be taken up as a pilot project, parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said after a cabinet meeting.

Besides, a legislation would have taken far too long to be cleared by Parliament and, obviously, could not have been pushed through before the Lok Sabha polls. “The bill, according to the normal procedure, would have gone to a standing committee which could take as long as one year to give its approval,” said labour minister Sahib Singh Verma.

A pilot project, on the contrary, can be launched without delay and before the elections, even if they are held early.

That is exactly the plan — the launch date is January 23, Netaji’s birthday. The pilot project will be kicked off in 50 districts across the country, including the state capitals.

Costing the government Rs 4,400 crore over 10 years, it will entitle unorganised workers to a pension, and an accident and health insurance.

A legislation on special economic zones and a 15 days’ strategic oil reserve were the other — business — decisions taken by the cabinet.

Swaraj said central public sector undertakings can now start negotiations for the next round of wage settlement effective for five years from January 1, 2002, onwards. No budgetary support will be provided.

Units which are monopolies or near monopolies or operate in an industry where prices are administered, and not market driven, have been told to ensure that the wage rise does not push up the prices they charge.

Workers drawing a basic salary of up to Rs 6,550 a month will be entitled to neutralisation of dearness allowance at 100 per cent of the basic salary. For those getting over Rs 6,550, DA will be neutralised to the extent of 75 per cent.

Managements will have to ensure that the negotiated pay does not clash with the existing scales of executives. They will be free to negotiate the wages of employees not covered by the Justice Mohan Committee report on public sector pay revision.

Sick companies registered with the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction will have to first get its approval.

The social security scheme — for unorganised sector labour with an income of less than Rs 6,500 a month — requires a worker between 18 and 35 years to pay Rs 50, which doubles in the 36-50 age group. The employer will contribute Rs 100 and the government Rs 1,800 per worker.

The worker will get a flat rate of Rs 500 a month on retirement or permanent and total disablement. There will be a personal accident insurance of Rs 1 lakh.


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