KOLKATA: AFTER “beedi” and construction workers, the Left Front government of West Bengal has recently launched a comprehensive social security scheme for the workers of transport sector, which is the first of its kind and unique in India. This scheme will cover at least 14 lakh workers of bus, mini bus, taxi, auto rickshaws, truck, mini truck, waterways and other categories of mass transport.
Although the UPA government had taken the step to form the National Commission of Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) with Arjun Sengupta as its chairman, back in September 2004, nothing concrete has been done so far by the union government for the social security of workers of unorganised sector.
In contrast, at the initiative of the Left Front government of West Bengal, for the first time in the country, a provident fund scheme for the unorganised sector was introduced in the state in the year 2000-01. The number of workers enrolled under this scheme till date is 17 lakh, which is expected to reach the mark of 25 lakh by the end of this financial year. Moreover, around 85,000 beneficiaries have been registered upto October 2009, under the Building and other Construction Workers’ Welfare programme.
Under the Revised Integrated Housing Scheme for Beedi Workers, (2005) taken up by the ministry of labour and employment, government of India, an amount of Rs 40,000 is given as subsidy to the individual beedi worker of this state for construction of dwelling houses. In response to that, the state government also pays an amount of Rs 10,000 per tenement as uniform subsidy and another Rs 2500 per tenement for electrification of their houses. A state 'Assisted Health Scheme' has also been introduced to the unorganised sector workers of the state registered under the Provident Fund scheme but not covered by the social security scheme for Beedi Workers, transport workers and construction workers.
Under the scheme for transport sector workers, launched recently, each worker will get a pension on monthly basis after retirement from 60 years of age till his death. But in case of disability of permanent nature caused by an accident, the worker will be entitled to get the pension since the occurrence of the accident. Apart from this, in case of accidental death, the family of the worker will receive a sum of Rs 1 lakh as financial assistance under the scheme.
Among other facilities and support provided by this scheme include :
Rs 50,000 for permanent disability
Rs 25,000 for partial disability
Rs 10,000 for treatment of diseases like tuberculosis, cancer, leprosy, cardiac problems, renal disorders, AIDS, thalassemia etc.
Rs 30,000 for surgical purpose
3,000 as maternity assistance (maximum two times)
Educational assistance for children includes Rs 2,000 for Higher Secondary level, Rs 3,000 for graduation level, Rs 5,000 for post graduate level and Rs 10,000 for studies either engineering or medical
Rs 5,000 as assistance for marriage of their daughters
Rs 30,000 as a financial assistance for normal death of the worker
So far as the magnitude of poverty and dimension of the vulnerability of the workers of unorganised sectors are concerned, the scenario is more or less the same across India as a whole. But the approach adopted by the Left Front government of Bengal to resolve the crisis may definitely be considered as forward moving step towards making a difference to the lives of workers in the unorganised sector.