In view of the migrant workers’ crisis, a Supreme Court order had also directed states to run community kitchens and distribute dry rations.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE) through Minister Bhupender Yadav told the Lok Sabha yesterday that registrations on the new, Supreme Court-directed National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW) are expected to start in August 2021. Yadav’s statements were tabled in response to a question raised by MP Kodikunnil Suresh during yesterday’s Lok Sabha session.
Why it matters? The Supreme Court in its judgement on the petition filed by the Bandhua Mokti Morcha about the problems and miseries of migrant workers had said that the central government needs to set up a National Database of Unorganised Workers. It had also said that the completion of the portal and registration on the same needs to start by July 31, 2021 so that migrant workers can avail benefits of the welfare measures implemented for them in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. In its judgement, the court had also referred to a 2018 order passed by the apex court directing the MoLE to start such an NDUW which would induct 10% of estimated workers every month.
In a press release on May 5, the MoLE had said that “Section 142 of the Social Security Code, 2020 has been notified by Ministry of Labour & Employment covering applicability of Aadhar” which will “enable Ministry of Labour and Employment to collect Aaadhar details for the database of beneficiaries under various social security schemes.” However, it added that those registered in the database will not be denied welfare benefits for want of an Aadhaar.
In its reply, the MoLE also said that at present, the process for a dry run and security audit is underway. Thereafter, state governments are to populate the data on the portal by mobilising the unorganised workers.
The Bandhua Mokti Morcha case in Supreme Court
Three activists – Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar*, had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court last year asking for directions to the Centre and states to ensure food security, cash transfers, and other welfare measures for migrant workers who faced distress again due to curfews and lockdowns in various parts of the country during the second wave of COVID-19.
“When the unorganized workers are waiting for registration and are waiting to reap the benefit of various welfare schemes of the States and Centre, the apathy and lackadaisical attitude by the Ministry of Labour and Employment is unpardonable. There was urgency in the portal to be finalized and implemented looking to the pandemic and dire need of unorganized workers to receive the benefit.”- The Supreme Court judgement
Beyond the instructions on creating the NDUW, the Supreme Court had directed-
- States and UTs to implement the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme.
- States and UTs to run community kitchens at prominent places for feeding those who do not have sufficient means.
- States and UTs to register all establishments and license all contractors under the law and ensure that statutory duty imposed on the contractors to give particulars of migrant workers is fully complied with.
- States to bring in appropriate schemes for distribution of dry ration to migrant labourers for which they can ask for allocation of additional food grains from the Central Government which the Centre was directed to provide.
Full question and answer
Will the Minister of LABOUR AND EMPLOYMENT be pleased to state:
- (a)the details of programmes by the Government aimed at alleviating poverty and unemployment among migrant labourers in the country after the second wave of covid pandemic;
- (b)whether the Ministry intends to establish a National Database for Unorganised Workers including the migrant labourers in the country;
- (c)if so, the details thereof;
- (d)whether there is a delay of lack of coordinated efforts in order to
- create a module between the Centre and respective States;
- (e)the details thereof and the reasons therefor; and
- (f)the details of action sought to address the anomalies to ensure timely establishment of the National Database for Unorganised Workers in view of facilitating streamlined deliveries of welfare programmes?
(a): Government of India has taken several measures and initiatives to address the challenges and threats to migrant workers posed by Covid-19. The details are at Annexure-I.
(b) to (f): Ministry of Labour & Employment in technical collaboration with National Informatics Centre (NIC) is developing a module/portal for comprehensive National Database for Unorganized Workers (NDUW) seeded with Aadhaar for all Unorganised workers including Construction Workers, Migrant Workers, Gig and Platform workers, Street Vendors, Domestic Workers, Agriculture Workers, Migrant workers and similar other workers, to address various challenges and issues related to the delivery of benefits of welfare schemes. At present, the process for dry run and security audit is underway. Rs. 45.39 Crore has already been released to NICSI for required software development and hardware purchases in February, 2021.
The project is expected to commence the registration work by August, 2021 after addressing all critical technical issues. Thereafter, the State Governments are to populate the data on the portal through mobilising the unorganised workers. The Common Service Centres through its nation-wide network of over 4 lakh centres and selected post offices of the Department of Posts will act as registration centres, where workers can visit and register themselves free of cost.
*Disclaimer: Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) cofounder Jagdeep S. Chhokar is related to Nikhil Pahwa, founder and editor of MediaNama.
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