New Delhi: The government is set to merge the service delivery platforms of three welfare programmes for workers belonging to the so-called unorganized sector to streamline their functioning and improve outcomes.

The schemes are the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana and the Indira Gandhi old age pension scheme, according to two government officials. The ministry has also prepared a document on integrating the three programmes and circulated it among stakeholders, including state governments who have been implementing them. Mint has reviewed a copy of it.

“We are trying to simplify life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits and old age protection under one service point for the unorganized sector workers," said a labour ministry official, requesting anonymity.

While the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana provides cashless hospitalization for the poor, the Aam Aadmi Bima Yojanaprovides life and disability protection to the head of a landless family. The old age pension scheme is for the senior citizens of poor families.

The officials said that of the total 474 million people in the labour market, 83% are in the unorganized sector and these people are largely out of the ambit of several social security safety nets that the Union or the state governments provide to organized sector workers.

“There are differences in the categories of beneficiaries covered and sources of data... This fragmented system creates a huge challenge for both the government and beneficiaries," the ministry document said.

For the government, the challenge is duplication of efforts by different schemes resulting in inefficiencies and wastage of resources. The challenge for the beneficiary include lack of awareness about the benefits, eligibility of schemes, process and documentation and finally the grievance redressal, the ministry note explained.

A second ministry official, who also requested not to be named, said that the government understands the problems poor people face while availing the benefits and often it leads to wage loss. The tracking of coverage of benefits passed on to the workers and monitoring under these schemes is also quite difficult as there is no underlying common database, the ministry document added.

Therefore, there is a need to have a single-point contact to avail all these schemes, the second official. The labour ministry will issue a single smart card that can provide identification and carry data of multiple schemes at single-point contacts, said the official.

To start with, the labour ministry will run a “pilot for convergence in implementation" in 20 districts across India in next three months and would provide a springboard for its scale up across India. The Economic Survey for 2013-14 released earlier this month had also suggested consolidating several social sector schemes so as to improve their outcomes. “What is needed is a ‘zero budgeting’ approach with a revamp, reorganization, and convergence of schemes," the survey had said. Zero-based budgeting runs contrary to traditional budgeting where the previous year’s budget is taken as a base. It re-evaluates the entire budget.

D.L. Sachdeva, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, a national labour union, said that there are several social sector schemes that lack proper implementation and monitoring, and any effort to converge them for better delivery is good. “But they have to understand that labour welfare schemes for unorganized sector workers need to get more monetary allocation. The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, for example, does not have statutory backing as it came with an executive order. These loopholes need be plugged as much as coordinating with states as they are the real implementing bodies," Sachdeva said.

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