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Fruits of Labour

In line with the government’s mantra of inclusive development, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced the creation of a separate fund to provide social security benefits to unorganised sector workers. See graphics

business Updated: Feb 27, 2010 02:28 IST
Vikas Pathak

In line with the government’s mantra of inclusive development, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced the creation of a separate fund to provide social security benefits to unorganised sector workers.

The fund — to be called National Social Security Fund for unorganised sector workers — is a follow-up on the Unorganised Sector Workers Social Security Act, 2008. The initial allocation announced for the fund: Rs 1,000 crore.

“This fund will support schemes for weavers, toddy tappers, rickshaw pullers, bidi workers, etc.,” Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee’s last budget speech had mentioned unorganised sector workers and promised financial allocations for social security schemes for them.

The percentage of unorganised sector workers in India’s workforce is a whopping 93 per cent and they contribute over half of our national income.

While almost the entire farm sector — itself 52 per cent of India’s workforce — is in the informal sector, 80 per cent of non-farm workers are in the unorganised sector.

The budget has also proposed extending the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana — launched in October 2007 to provide health insurance cover to below poverty line families — to all National Rural Employment Guarantee Act beneficiaries who have worked more than 15 days in the last financial year.

For each unorganised sector worker joining the New Pension Scheme by contributing between Rs 1,000 and Rs 12,000 per annum during 2010-11, the government will contribute Rs 1,000 a year, as part of an initiative called Swavalamban (self-reliance). The allocation for 2010-11: Rs 100 crore, aimed at benefiting 10 lakh people.

“To think of the unorganised sector, the bulk of our economy, is a small step in the right direction, but whether the allocation is adequate needs exploration,” economic historian Aditya Mukherjee told HT.

“This fund and some other schemes like NREGA and SSA would provide some benefits to deprived unorganised sector workers, but let us not forget that these people — with their low bargaining power for wages — are the hardest hit by inflation, particularly food inflation, as food accounts for 70 per cent of their budgets,” said economist Arun Kumar, JNU. “Since indirect taxes are up, this budget will be inflationary, and will hit the poorest unorganised.”

The unorganised sector refers to enterprises whose activities or data collection are not regulated under any legal provisions, or those that do not maintain regular accounts.