New Delhi: The impasse over India’s proposed law to provide social security to workers in the unorganized continues, with a meeting of labour unions and Union labour minister Oscar Fernandes failing to find common ground.
Parliament was scheduled to discuss and move the Unorganised Sector Workers’ Social Security Bill, 2007, which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in September. Since the House was adjourned over the death of a member, the Bill is likely to be listed again on Tuesday, Rajya Sabha’s table office said.
Both the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, which lend outside support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, and the principal opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), oppose the Bill.
“We made it clear to the minister that we oppose the Bill in its current form and want the government to incorporate our recommendations, which are in tune with the parliamentary standing committee,” said M.K. Pandhe, president of the CPM-backed Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
D. Raja, CPI national secretary, said the Left parties will oppose the Bill in Parliament, as it did not include the recommendations of its standing committee.
The Bill, which provides for a framework for welfare schemes targeting unorganized sector workers, faces opposition because trade unions believe it does not provide comprehensive and guaranteed social security to all workers in the sector.
Following differences over the Bill, it was referred to a standing committee on labour, which presented its report to Parliament in December.
The right-wing Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, too, remained opposed to the Bill. “The government is inclined to neither accept any suggestions and recommendations made by the central trade unions and the parliamentary standing committee, nor make any improvements in the Bill,” R.V. Subba Rao, vice-president of the union, who attended the meeting, said in a written statement.
“Isn’t it obvious that the government is not serious about providing security to unorganized sector workers?” asked Rudra Narayan Pany, a BJP Rajya Sabha member, and a member of the standing committee on labour. “Just as the Bill was introduced amid bedlam on the last day of the monsoon session last year, if it comes up on Tuesday, it might get drowned in the uproar over the legislation on women’s reservation. In any case, we are not going to support it.”
The standing committee, with representation from most political parties, echoed the views of those who oppose the legislation. “The committee feels social security schemes cannot just work without any statutory backing and assured resource allocation. It would not be proper to tailor the schemes or reduce their number on the consideration of funds,” its report noted.
K.P. Kannan, member of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector, said there were three basic flaws in the proposed legislation. “First, we wanted it to be rights-based, which means social security should be enshrined in legislation as a right, just as they have done in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” said Kannan. “Secondly, a social security fund should be set up to administer the funds permanently, instead of depending on the discretion of the state. Finally, there should be an empowered body instead of an advisory board.”
Ashish Sharma contributed to this story.