ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Half-Step Forward

The new legislation on social security does not meet expectations in full measure, but it is a movement forward.

Nearly five years after it was first mooted, Parliament has passed legislation that will provide a measure of social security to workers in the unorganised sector. The Unorganised Workers Social Security Bill that was approved by the Lok Sabha on 17 December is quite different from the substantial proposals made by the National Commission on Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS). Yet, the central government act that will come into force needs to be welcomed for the first (albeit hesitant) steps that it will set in motion to provide social security to workers in the unorganised sector.

This is not the first attempt to put in place a countrywide social security programme. In 2004, in what then appeared to be a pre-poll offering, the National Democratic Alliance government launched a health insurance and old age pension social security scheme for workers in the unorganised sector. Thereafter, a number of draft legislative proposals were prepared by different bodies, but the most important were the two legislative bills drawn up by the NCEUS. The legislation that has now been enacted by Parliament is in many ways substantially different from and is a watered down version of the NCEUS proposals. The government’s own bill had been closely examined and criticised by the Standing Committee of Parliament on Labour. A few of the recommendations of the com-mittee were included in the bill, which itself had to go thrice to the union cabinet before it was introduced in Parliament.

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