Social security act a boon for unorganised workers: SEWA

December 23rd, 2008 - 1:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad, Dec 23 (IANS) Around 400 million workers in India’s unorganised sector who often get a raw deal can now hope for old age pension, health insurance and other benefits, thanks to a newly passed act of parliament, says the reputed NGO SEWA which had been demanding it for years.Renana Jhabvala, national coordinator of the Ahmedabad-based Self Employed Women’s Association - popularly known as SEWA - said the central and state governments should seek the help of NGOs “with a good track record” to ensure the implementation of the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act.

According to her, the act would bring social security to 400 million workers in the unorganised sector in India.

“The health of unorganised sector workers and their families is an issue of concern,” Jhabvala told IANS.

After several recommendations and corrections, the act was finally approved by parliament Dec 18. It ensures old age pension, maternity benefits and health insurance to workers.

Jhabvala said like the US social security insurance programme, the Indian government should give a digital ID card to each worker. The card should allow the worker to meet his or his family members’ health expenses of up to Rs.30,000 a year by simply swiping the card.

Jhavala said SEWA - which now has 1.1 million members in nine states - had been clamouring for the past 20 years for such an act for unorganised workers, including domestic helps.

“We first raised this with the commission on self-employed women in 1988, and then with the second labour commission in 2001 and have continually done so with successive governments since.”

It is important that the benefits of this act should reach all workers, she said, adding: “In particular, it’s important that the benefits reach the poorest workers, especially women. This will happen only if the act is implemented in an inclusive way.”

Jhabvala said SEWA had requested the government to involve NGOs, local bodies, micro-finance agencies, cooperative societies and trade unions in the implementation of the act.

The government should also make available enough funds to ensure the social security of all the 400 million workers in the unorganised sector, Jhabvala said.

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