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The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

The unorganised worker's social security Act was enacted by the parliament of India in 2008 by president's assent. It is implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Employment. worker's sector. Recently, the honorary Supreme Court dismissed the PIL filed by Shri R Subramanian which was seeking directions to compensate the financial loss of the workers employed in the unorganised sector.

The persistence of Covid-19 pandemic has expedited the misery of India's working population. It came to light that more than 90% of the Indian population is employed in the unorganised sector and they neither have access to social security nor minimum wages despite them contributing an approximate of 60% to the Indian GDP.

Salient Features:
  • The Act mentions about constitution of a National Social Security board and State Social Security Board which will give recommendation for formulation of suitable schemes which later shall be monitored and reviewed.

    In Rajan Kudumbathil v. Union of India on 12 November 2009, the Kerala government was directed to immediately constitute the State Social Security Board as it was not established post the enactment of the act.
     
  • The UWSS Act has laid down provisions wherein it registers and issues a smart identity card with a unique number to the unorganised sector worker.
  • The Record Keeping function will be performed by the District Administration.
     
  • The Workers Facilitation Centres will disseminate the available data on the social security schemes, facilitate the filing-processing and forwarding of the registration application with the assistance of the district administrator.
     
  • The act in its Schedule I has laid down a list of the Social Security Schemes to ensure that the workers of the unorganised sector meet their basic needs and that they have a decent standard of living.
Objective And Purpose
The UWSS Act 2008 was implemented with the objective to ensure social security, good wellbeing and to protect the unorganised sector workers from several contingencies.
The importance of the act came to light in 2012 in National Domestic Workers Welf. v. State of Jharkhand & Ors. wherein it was highlighted that the current labour laws in force such as the Industrial Disputes Act, the Minimum Wages Act, Maternity Benefit Act, the Workmen's Compensation Act, Factories Act, etc. are applicable to a restricted number of workers.

In India, the social security laws have derived their basis from Part IV of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP). The Social security and Labour Laws form a part of the concurrent list therefore both, the Central and the State Governments are approved to make laws for the same. It is the obligation of the state to lay down provisions which grant social security to organised as well as unorganised sector workers.

Another purpose of the act is to ensure that the needs of the workers employed in the unorganised sector are addressed as it contributes to the sustainable economic growth in the country. Apart from Social security the needs include availability of credit, upskilling, use of modern technology, infrastructure and the requirement of a contractual obligation between the employer and employee.

Progress Made Under IT
The Social Security Schemes and Acts mentioned in the Schedule I and II of the UWSS, 2008 are run by several different ministries. For instance, the Medical care is been taken care by the Ministry of Health, Food Security by Ministry for Agriculture etc. The budget allocation for the same is done by different ministries creating a problem of multipliciy of benefits availed and suggests a formation of a ministry of social security.

The National Social Assistance Programme which comprises of Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme under the UWSS has 4,02,56,984 people as beneficiaries as of 14th June 2020. As an extension to the act, a National Social Security Fund (NSSF) was constituted for unorganised workers in 2010 with an initial funding of INR 1,000 crore.

Several schemes under the Act depend on State-level nodal agencies for functioning of its Schemes and in times like the national health crisis these labour laws and policies not only provide social security for the workers but help the economy from deteriorating. Recently, the state of Uttar Pradesh promulgated Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020 which shall suspend a majority of the acts and schemes under UWSS for a period of three years.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for additional legal safeguards and welfare measures for the unorganised workers especially the migrant workers and domestic workers as they are in dire need of social security more than ever.

Critical Analysis
The UWSS Act is a significant initiative taken by the government to address and provide remedy to the plight of the workers engaged in unorganised sector for the first time, the act has also enlisted several welfare schemes which can be availed by the workers.

There are certain inadequacies in the act which complicates the implementation process at the same time infringes rights of the unorganised workers. The scope of the definition of “unorganised workers” is narrow and excludes forest and fish workers, domestic workers, cross-border provisional workers, and aanganwadi workers etc.

It is important to note that, the act has not defined the term “social security” and hence it is not justiciable. The act has laid down several social security schemes but has not included them within the body of the act.

The Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 established a globally accepted minimum standard social security benefit which covers the nine branches of social security namely medical care, sickness, unemployment, old-age, employment injury, family, maternity, invalidity and survivor's benefit. Yet, the UWSS fails to provide for any minimum social security to its unorganised workers.

The act places the unorganised workers in an odd position as, if they fail to make the deposits in time, they are disentitled from the benefits without considering the contingencies that come along which renders the process of contribution complicated.

Recommendations:
  • The term social Security should be explicitly defined to make it enforceable in court of law.
  • Currently, the act is only applicable to unorganised workers who are below poverty line and hence, should be made inclusive of all the unorganised workers which will fulfil the purpose of the act.
  • A chapter on dispute resolution needs should be appended to the Act to make sure workers can file complaints about violations and seek remedy.
  • An amendment should be made to add “minimum social security benefits” for the unorganised workers based on ILO standards.
  • Create a comprehensive database of unorganised workers working in sectors not covered by the act to provide them visibility.

Conclusion
Social security is an important part of the development at all the levels of the existent society and leads it towards a better social and economic growth. To enable these workers to gain maximum benefit from the schemes an effort must be to make them aware of their rights.

The lack of proper implementation and standard checks have made the schemes to remain on the papers as evidently, In the light of the current pandemic and suspension of labour laws in few states poses a grave question, whether India acknowledges the importance of the unorganised workers in the country?

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