Saturday, January 9, 2010

Migrants workers are in dire need to be brought under a social security regime- Chief Justice of the Supreme Court K.G. Balakrishnan

Umi Daniel

The unorganised workers social security bill2007 was debated and passed by the Rajya Sabha in Oct 2008 and by the Lok Sabha in Dec, 2008.The President gave her assent on 30th Dec, 2008. The Ministry of Labour has also issued rules based on the Act.

The Act has been criticized by many as a useless piece of legislation on various grounds, with the most serious condemnations coming from none other than the Chief Justice of India Mr. K.G. Balkrishnan. The criticisms against the Act include that it does not guarantee any justceable right to social security for the unorganized sector workers, contains no provision for the creation of a social security fund, excludes more than 90 percent of the workers by delimiting eligible unorganized workers to only those living below the poverty line (BPL) and precludes unemployment and disruption of livelihood within the possible social security benefits to workers.

The Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge agreed to amend an Act for providing social security to unorganised sector workers after a senior Supreme Court judge pointed out lacunae in the legislation. Justice S.B. Sinha, the third senior most judge of the apex court, at a seminar criticised the Unorganised workers Social Security Act, 2008 on many counts.“The special problems of migrant workers, especially interstate migrants among unorganised workers and the problems of their security have totally been ignored in the law,” said Justice Mr. Sinha.

The criticism prompted the labour minister to say he would correct the law “at the earliest”. “Even the constitution has been amended so many times. There is no problem in amending this small parliamentary legislation to remove lacunae pointed out by Justice Mr. Sinha,” Kharge said. “I promise to initiate steps to amend the law at the earliest,” said the minister, who was also present at the seminar organised by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) at New Delhi. Justice Sinha said: “Though the law provides for funding of various schemes, notified by the Government for a semblance of social security to the unorganised sector workers, it fails to establish any committed fund for financing of the schemes and leaves it on the central government to decide the matter.“It does not have any separate administrative machinery or a statutory mechanism for implementation of the law,” said Mr. Sinha. “The law effectively narrows down the concept of social security to 10 paltry welfare schemes, while most of those schemes like old age pension, maternity benefits or even the Bima Yojna (insurance scheme) for that matter, are already existing and there is nothing new in this,” said Justice Mr. Sinha. “Livelihood rights, contingencies are not included within the schemes, while unpaid women workers and unpaid family members have not been included within the ambit of the law.”

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court K.G. Balakrishnan said: “Migrants workers are in dire need to be brought under a social security regime.” Emphasizing the need for a strong social security law in the country, the Chief Justice said: “Having effective social security law is the only way to rid the country of internal terrorism.”

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