You may recall our meeting at the Consultations
organized in Delhi on the 23rd and 24th September
by The National Centre for Labour and others
on the various Bills on Unorganized Sector Workers.
I had promised you to send my comments on the
two Bills drafted by the NCEUS.
I regret the delay in sending you my comments
and hope that they are not too late.
I hope to be in Delhi between the 21st and 25th
November and can be contacted at 011-26485696
should you want me to come over for any discussions
The basic point I made at the consultations
and which I stick to ,is the same as the one
urged by the National Campaign Committee for
Unorganized Sector Workers (NCC) that there
must be an integrated single law which will
include not merely provisions for social security
but also for the more important issues like
regulation of employment, security of livelihood,
conditions of work, protection of environment,
guarantee of customary rights including access
to common natural and property resources and
so on, all to be provided through schemes in
the drafting of which and implementation of
which, the workers will have effective voice
through tripartite Boards and their subordinate
tripartite bodies at lower levels like district,
tehsil, Panchayat smithies, project areas and
You might have by now seen the Petition signed
by lakhs and lakhs of workers and presented
to The Petitions Committee of Parliament after
a massive Rally in Delhi on the 5th of May this
year and also the letter written by Justice
V R Krishna Iyer, Chairperson of NCC, to the
Prime Minister on the subject (Copies of these
and other documents may be had from Subhash
Bhatnagar of NCC at Delhi)
What we in the NCC demand is participation in
the whole process; we are quite clear that the
unorganized workers do not want anymore to be
in the position of "beneficiaries".
We want to be participants in the whole process.
If the history of the enactment of The Building
and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of
Employment and Conditions of Work) Act, 1996
is studied, it will be clear that tripartite
bodies at various levels, both for formulation
and implementation of Schemes, including provision
for resolution of disputes, has been the theme
song of the campaign launched by the National
Campaign Committee for a Central Law for Construction
Labour. The lessons of that struggle have not
been forgotten. We are strengthened by that
experience and that is why, even though we did
not achieve in the 1996 law all that we fought
for, we are now quite clear that an integrated
law dealing with all aspects and giving the
workers and their representatives a central
place in the scheme of things is a must. Given
the nature of the sector, what we are demanding
is both realistic and necessary. It is not a
case of " the best being the enemy of good"
The promise made in the National Common Minimum
Programme about the firm commitment "to
ensure welfare and well being of all these workers
, particularly those in the unorganized sector
who constitute 93% of our workforce" does
not and can not admit of half measures.
Coming to the two Bills prepared by NCEUS, I
have the following comments, all subject to
the above stated general position.
A: Unorganized Sector Workers Social Security
Section 1:-Let the law be brought into force
through out the country at a date not later
than eighteen months of the date of Presidential
assent to the law as passed by both Houses of
While section 15(i) stipulates that the State
Governments shall constitute Boards within one
year of of the date of commencement of the Act,
no such time limit is indicated in section 9
for establishing the National Board by the Central
Government. Why? Also, section 4 relating to
framing of schemes does not also stipulate any
time limit. The law must set very strict time
limits for these things. Otherwise, we will
have the same sorry experience that we have
in respect of the 1996 law relating to building
and construction workers where even after almost
10 years, most states are yet to implement it.
One cant be too strict with governments in such
inclusion of persons in the organized sector
without any social security cover , though well
intentioned, may create problems. It is presumed
that the above expression is meant to cover
contract and casual in the organized sector.
The expression "without ANY social security
cover" needs elaboration. Eligibility to
become a member of the Employees Provident Fund
or to maternity benefit by the very fact of
being employed in an industrial establishment
covered by the Maternity Benefit Act will exclude
him/her. Is that the intention? Further, an
enterprise may be a registered cooperative or
a registered firm or even a company (and therefore
in terms of section 2(h) be in the organized
sector) may employ less than 20 persons and
therefore fall outside the purview of the EPF
and ESIC Acts. Is it the intention that such
workers who may be regular employees and not
contract or casual labour, be covered by the
definition in section 2(m)?One is not sure whether
these employees will even like to be covered
by the proposed law. I suggest a more detailed
look be bestowed on this.
Section 4:-"Framing of Schemes"-Will
the proposed National Social Security Scheme
be drafted by the Central Government on its
own without even consulting the National Social
Security Board. and/or the state governments?
The press note carries some calculations and
states that the outlay will be less than one
percent of the GDP. One need not and should
not be so modest. What we want and what we want
the law to contain as legislative policy is
that to begin with at least 3% of the GDP must
be ear marked for this and this percentage must
go up annually by half or one percent until
a satisfactory level of social protection is
reached for every man , woman and child in our
country. We are in the 55th year of our Constitution
and it is time that in terms of Article 41,
" public assistance in cases of unemployment,
old age, sickness and disablement, and in other
cases of undeserved want" became a reality.
In respect of old age pension, the age limit
may be reduced to 55 or even 50 for women workers,
particularly in employments like construction,
they may find it difficult to get employment
even at 45 years of age.
Maternity benefits to spouses of men workers
is a novel and welcome step. Given the size
of the sector, this will amount to a near universal
scheme of maternity assistance. An integrated
proposal for universal child care (0 to 6 years)will
be a welcome addition.
Section 6:- "Existing Welfare Boards"-The
implications of this provision and the equity
of it merit a detailed discussion.
IV "National Social Security Board for
Unorganized Sector Workers"
Chapter V "State Social Security Boards
Unorganized Sector Workers"::--
These questions arise:--
(a)What is the need for a National Board with
executive powers. What will be categories and
numbers of workers that may fall in the "central
sphere" going by the definition of 'appropriate
government" in the Industrial Disputes
Act, 1947? Is it not adequate to have a representative
National Advisory Committee for advising the
central governments on all matters arising out
of the implementation of the Act?
(b)The composition of the Boards must be essentially
tripartite, with the addition of two or three
persons to represent NGOs, experts and so on.
Considering that the draft Bill is only dealing
with social security provisions, there may not
be any need to list out the employments that
will be covered. But in an integrated law of
the type that NCC demands, there will be need
for listing out employments and grouping them
for purposes of regulation of employment and
related matters. I leave it at that.
Chapter VI "Registration of Unorganized
It is desirable to associate trade unions and
other workers organizations in the work of registering
The tripartite subordinate bodies of the Board
at the lowest level can do the registration.
There is no need for a District level committee
VII "Delivery of Social Security Benefits"
:-- Consistent with all that I have stated above,
I see no need for Workers Facilitation Centres.
The tripartite bodies will do all that is expected
of the WFCs.
VIII "Dispute Resolution Bodies
and Their Constitution"
:-- The above remarks will also apply to Disputes
Resolution Councils at the district level.
Unorganised Sector Workers (Conditions of Work
and Livelihood Promotion )Bill,2005.
The draft is only a declaration of intent and
needs to be fleshed out. The law must reflect
ILO's Fundamental Principles and concept of
Decent Work, apart from minimum standards. The
drafts prepared by the National Centre for Labour
and the NCCUSW may be referred to, with advantage.
Sorry for inflicting such a long letter on you.
Hope you dont mind the length,.