There is a growing clamour from states ruled by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that the crucial Code on Social Security Bill, 2019 should be brought in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament for early passage. The development comes in the backdrop of the migrant issue and labour rights gaining spotlight over the last three months.
Senior leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believe that the ongoing problem of reverse migration of more than 7 million people in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, the worst affected states, has made the issue more immediate and there should be a law in place at the earliest.
"Our target is to table the report in the monsoon session and we are hopeful of doing it," said those in the know of development at the Parliamentary standing committee on labour.
The Code on Social Security Bill, 2019, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December last year and was later sent for review to the standing committee, seeks to amend and consolidate nine laws relating to social security of the employees. These laws include those on access to healthcare and income security.
The first state to urge the union government to push the Bill for early passage is Bihar where BJP and Janata Dal (United) or JDU are in government under chief minister Nitish Kumar. 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. The opposition there plans to challenge the development model of the state government.
Uttar Pradesh is another state which is demanding greater social security as the state has witnessed reverse migration of more than 3 million people since March. While state governments of both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have taken decision to ensure there is pension and insurance for workers, the state governments want a national law in place to protect the rights of labourers.
Several opposition members have however flagged a number of issues related to the bill which they think should be addressed first – ranging from a section of members urging that tabling of report should not be rushed owing to members being busy with relief work related to covid-19 pandemic to some demanding amendments while many others highlighting the need of a separate law for migrant workers after the recent crisis during the nationwide lockdown.
“We were scheduled to have a meeting earlier this month but that got postponed. Several members have been demanding that there should be a separate law or policy over migrant workers. Each state has their own approach and when such a national policy on migrant workers is being planned, states must be kept in loop," a senior opposition leader who is part of the standing committee said requesting anonymity.
Another opposition leader, who is part of the committee, flagged that the current phase in the country was ‘like an emergency situation’ where most parliamentarians were caught up with aiding relief work in their constituencies and hence the finalizing of the report should be left for a later.
“The report is under scrutiny. Many of us feel that since meetings of the committee have not taken place, we have not heard enough from the government representative regarding our queries. The level of questioning has to be more so as to have a clear picture of what we are signing up for," another senior Rajya Sabha opposition leader, who is part of the committee said, requesting anonymity.
This leader called for consistency in definitions to ensure simplicity.
“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.