Sharing his Government’s welfare schemes for workers of unorganised sectors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently said, “The participation of our unorganised labour brothers and sisters is very important in the development of the country and our Government is always striving to make the lives of crores of such workers easier.”
Unfortunately, the Government realised that there was no reliable database of these workers, who accounted for over 90 per cent of India’s workforce when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Despite the launch of several welfare schemes to help ease their pain during the unprecedented crises, this prevented the benefits from reaching many of them.
To fill this gap, the Modi Government launched a first-of-its-kind system of registering them through an eShram portal.
The Economic Survey presented in the recent Budget session, shows that its efforts are paying off. Over 27 million workers from the unorganised sector have been registered on the portal launched by the Government in August last year.
The e-Shram portal is the first imitative by any government to measure the problem of informal sector workers in India. The Government hopes to bring all the estimated 380 million of them on board by March 2023. The Aadhaar-seeded centralised database is being created primarily to deliver all future social security benefits of the Centre and the states meant for such workers.
It was not as if the Modi Government did nothing to swing into action when the pandemic highlighted the problems of unorganised workers and the lack of authentic data about them.
On March 5, 2019, it launched the Pradhan Mantri Shramyogi Maandhan Yojana, to help people over the age of 60 by providing them with a monthly pension of ₹3,000. Workers in the unorganised sector and senior citizens in the country are empowered and self-sufficient as a result of this scheme. So far, 46,26,768 people have signed up for the scheme.
The Government has prepared the e-Shram portal under the Ministry of Labour and Employment to create a national database of workers in the unorganised sector, which will be linked to Aadhaar.
It will include information such as their name, occupation, address, educational qualification, skillset, family, and so on so that their employable potential can be maximised and the benefits of social security schemes can reach them. A sum of ₹2 lakh is given in accident insurance for each unorganised worker who registers on the e-Shram portal. If a registered worker is injured in an accident, he or she will be awarded ₹2 lakh, if he dies or suffers a permanent physical disability and Rs 1 lakh if he/she suffers a partial disability.
The unorganised sector workers between the ages of 18 and 40 with a monthly income of ₹15,000 or less can apply for this scheme and receive a monthly pension of ₹3,000 after 60 years. According to Union Labour and Employment Minister Bhupender Yadav, 15.43% of people who have registered on the e-Shram portal are between the age group of 18 and 40. Overall, the registered workers represent over 400 occupations, the highest enrolment coming from the agriculture sector. Among them, 53.8% are women, as compared to 46.12% of men.
The database is the first step toward a necessary and overdue objective, the inclusion of neglected categories of informal workers, and to bring them under the ambit of social and digital welfare. This will not only enable the Central and state governments to ensure the implementation of daily wages fixed under the new Labour Code but also be utilised in making provisions for providing special financial assistance to unorganised workers in emergency and national pandemic like situations.
Higher registration by women in the e-Shram also enhances gender justice in the labour market where payment to female workers is generally skewed against them. For migrant workers, especially women, the portal raises the hope of being counted.