Welfare benefits soon to 369 mn workers in unorganised sector


New Delhi : India Thursday took a step towards a welfare state by announcing that it would soon extend benefits – life and disability cover, health and old age pension – to the 369 million workers in the unorganised sector.

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Towards this purpose, a bill would be introduced in parliament's upcoming monsoon session to provide for a National Advisory Board (NAB) that would suggest, monitor and regulate welfare schemes for these workers, said union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi.

The NAB will also ensure that every worker in the unorganised sector above the age of 18 is registered and receives an identity card. This identity card will be her passport for securing welfare benefits in any part of the country, Dasmunsi said after the cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The proposed bill will also provide for similar state level advisory boards in each state.

The cabinet has decided to implement the recommendations of the parliamentary committee on the conditions of the unorganised sector, Dasmunsi said.

The report, placed in parliament towards the end of the budget session, suggests a number of schemes for the welfare and social security of unorganised sector workers, said the minister, who also heads the parliamentary affairs ministry.

The central government is already implementing welfare schemes for some specific occupational groups like fishermen, bidi workers, non-coal mine workers, cine workers and handloom weavers under the National Old Age Pension Scheme and the National Rural Health Mission.

According to Dasmunsi, the government also plans to introduce several other schemes based on the parliamentary committee's recommendations to fulfil the commitment made in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The UPA government is concerned over the plight of the unorganised workers because they constitute 93 percent of the total workforce of the country, he said, citing a sample survey of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO).