New Delhi: Four out of every five workers in the unorganized sector earn less than Rs20 a day, a report released by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) said.
In its third report, presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, the NCEUS has recommended the implementation of a Rs45,000 crore, 13-point action plan over the next five years. The plan aims to enhance productivity, employment and income levels of marginal and small farmers, as well as non-agricultural workers.
The report said that a majority of the population, 77%, subsists at incomes just above the poverty line, at Rs12 per person per day, and much below the prevailing
minimum wages, which range between Rs40 and Rs150 a day across most states.
Measuring progress: Arjun Sengupta, chairman of NCEUS.
“The Commission’s recommendations will help improve the quality of life of more than 330 million of the most marginalized and vulnerable working class. We feel a new bottom line can come up to measure India’s progress,” said Arjun Sengupta, chairman of the NCEUS.
The money for the package is expected to be generated from budgetary resources and contributions from state governments, banks and financial institutions. “We believe that implementation of the 13-point agenda is well within our fiscal and administrative capacity,” said Sengupta.
The report comes at a time when the government is under persistent attack from both the Opposition and the Left parties, which support it from outside, over inequitable economic growth. A Bill to address the unorganized sector has also been delayed due to differences on the draft between the government and the Left parties.
“The figures clearly show that this government is not with the aam aadmi (ordinary citizen), as it claims, but with kuchh khaas aadmi (a small privileged section of the society),” said G. Devarajan, national secretary of the All India Forward Bloc, one of the four Left parties that support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
Devarajan said the government had formed the commission, headed by Sengupta, under pressure from the Left-backed trade unions, to fulfil the commitment made under the national common minimum programme, a set of guidelines the government adopted soon after it came to power. “The government has no choice now but to act on these recommendations,” he said.
“The figures thrown up by this report only reinforce our concern. One effective solution could be more budgetary support to vocational training. While we have just about 200 vocational courses, China has nearly 3,000 such courses,” said Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a BJP spokesperson.
“And now that the World Bank is about to scale up the poverty line, from one dollar per person per day to two dollars a day, 85% of the country’s population will be pushed below the poverty line,” he added. Around 395 million, or 86% of India’s working population belongs to the unorganized sector. If the casual labourers in the organized sector are also taken into account, this figure rises to 92% of the working population. The NCEUS has sought a package of minimum social security benefits covering health and disability. Its recommendations include hospitalisation benefit of Rs15,000 per year, sickness allowance for 15 days and maternity benefits of Rs1,000 to the workers or their spouses.
Besides, it has sought life cover (of Rs30,000-Rs75,000) for all unorganized workers, old-age pension of Rs200 per month to all below poverty line (BPL) workers above 60 and provident fund to all registered workers. The commission has also suggested the creation of Rs5,000-crore national fund for the sector.
“This will help create a lending institution to take care of the development needs of the unorganized sector and should address the credit needs of entrepreneurs in the range of Rs2-5 lakh,” said economist R.S. Srivastava, also a full-time member of the NCEUS.