NEW DELHI :
States ruled by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) have said that the crucial Code on Social Security Bill, 2019, should be brought in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament for early passage. This comes against the backdrop of the migrant issue and labour rights gaining spotlight over the last three months.
The code seeks to amend and consolidate nine laws relating to social security of employees, including access to healthcare and income security.
Senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the reverse migration of over 7 million people to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, which are the worst affected states, has made the issue more immediate.
“Our target is to table the report in the monsoon session and we are hopeful of doing it," said those aware of development at the parliamentary standing committee on labour.
The Code on Social Security Bill, 2019, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha last December, was later sent for review to the standing committee.
Bihar, where the BJP and the Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), is in government with Nitish Kumar as the chief minister, was the first state to urge the Union government to push the Bill for early passage. The demand for an immediate social security law is also taking place because NDA leaders in Bihar have to face assembly elections in four months, where the Opposition plans to challenge the development model of the state government.
Uttar Pradesh is another state that is demanding greater social security as it witnessed reverse migration of more than 3 million people since March. The state governments of both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have decided to ensure that there is pension and insurance for workers, but they want a national law to protect the rights of labourers.
Opposition members have, however, flagged a number of issues related to the Bill that they think should be addressed first. A section of members said that the tabling of the report should not be rushed as members are busy with relief work related to the covid-19 pandemic. Some demanded amendments, while others highlighted the need for a separate law for migrant workers after the recent crisis.
“We were scheduled to have a meeting earlier this month but that was postponed. Several members have been demanding that there should be a separate law or policy on migrant workers. Each state has its own approach and when such a national policy on migrant workers is being planned, states must be kept in the loop," said a senior Opposition leader, who is part of the standing committee, requesting anonymity.
Another Opposition leader, who is also part of the committee, said the situation in the country was “like an emergency" where most parliamentarians were busy with relief work in their constituencies and, hence, the finalizing of the report should be left for a later.
“The level of questioning has to be greater so as to have a clear picture of what we are signing up for," said another senior Rajya Sabha opposition leader, who is part of the committee, requesting anonymity. “While it is fine to define terms like gig workers and platform workers, one needs to bring them under the larger context of workmen otherwise there is a chance that the codification, which is aimed at simplifying things, could further complicate it," the leader quoted above added.