The Unorganised Sector Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

An Act of 33 of the year 2008 was enacted by the Parliament of India with the short title as ‘the Unorganised Sector Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008’. This Central Government Act is provided with the purpose and object of providing social security and welfare of the unorganized workers. The legislation was assented by the President of India on 30th day of December 2008 and the provisions of this Act were extended to the whole of Indian territories. The provisions of the Act are divided into six chapters containing several provisions, and the first Chapter therein makes preliminary provisions including short titling, extension and commencement of the Act. And also the same Chapter also provides for certain important definitions of various terms used under the provisions of the Act, including the one important term ‘Unorganised worker’ which is being used under the long title also, which here means a worker working home based, as self employed or wage worker in the unorganized sector and also the term including the workers from the organised sector, who are taken away from being covered under the provisions of any of the enactments enumerated under the Second Schedule annexed to this Act.

The Chapter II of the Act makes provisions for social security benefits which can be seen as the main purpose of the Act. Section 3 of the Act provides for making of welfare scheme by the Central Government for the unorganized worker which should deal with the matters provided under the several clauses of this provision, such as covering life and disability, matter of providing benefits such as maternity and health benefits, old age protection and all other benefit so determined by the Central Government and all other matter provided over there. Under the same chapter, the provisions of section 4 of the Act provides for issuing funds by the Central Government for the Scheme which is being notified by it under the previous provision. Entire funding is required to be made by the Central Government or in case of partly funding by the State Government then remaining part to be funded by the Central Government or even in case it is partly funded through collected contributions from the beneficiaries of the Scheme or employers thereof then remaining part to be funded by the State and also by the Central Government. The Central Government is also required to notify the scheme and while doing so, under the same notification, the Central Government is required to necessarily provide for matters significant for proper and efficient implementation of the said Scheme. And certain matters regarding such implementation are given as includes, scope of the Scheme, beneficiaries and resources thereof, implementing agency(s) and also for relevant matter including grievances redressal.

The next Chapter being third one, dealing with the provisions for constitution of Board for the unrecognised workers. The chapter contains only one section i.e. Section 5 of the Act, making provisions as to constitution of the aforesaid Board. The Central Government is empowered to constitute such Board with the name and title as ‘National Social Security Board’ by notifying the same. Such Board is required to  deal with the powers and functions provided under this Act. So far as the composition of the said Board is concerned, the Union Minister for Labour and Employment should be the Chairperson, ex officio, the Director General (Labour Welfare) should be Member-Secretary, ex officio and besides both of them there should be other 34 Members being nominated by the Central Government from respective provided sectors. All such members including Chairperson must be from the persons having eminence in the labour welfare, management, etc. fields of labour. And the Board is empowered to provide for matters like number of nominated Members, their term of office, other conditions as to their services, etc. Such Board’s term is given as of 5 years and for its meetings the Board is required to meet at least 3 times in the year at the prescribed place. As to allowances of the Members for attending meetings also the Board can fix the same. And the said section 5 itself provides for several functions of the Board including making of recommendations to the Central Government for framing suitable schemes for different sections of unorganised workers and also other provided functions.

Further, the Act makes provisions for constitution of similar security Board for the States, as per its Chapter IV, where in section 6 of the Act empowers the State Government of every State to constitute such Boards with the name and title as for say, Maharashtra State Social Security Board. For composition, the Minister of Labour and Employment of the concerned State will be Chairperson, ex officio, the Principal Secretary or Secretary (Labour) will be Member-Secretary, ex officio; and other 28 members whose nomination to be made by the State Government from different sectors. Other provisions under the said section provides for more or less similar issues as are involve in case of the National Board as aforesaid. Moreover, the State Government issued scheme for such unorganised worker, is required to be funded in the manner as aforesaid in case of the Central Government’s Scheme, only funding from the Central Government is not required in this case, however, the States can seek financial assistance from the Centre, in respect thereto. Moreover, the Act requires to keep the records under this Act by the District Administration. Also, the State Governments are required to setup the Workers’ facilitation centres for informing workers about the social security schemes available for unorganised workers, assisting them to have registered with District Administration and facilitating their enrolments in the Schemes.

The Next chapter of the Act dealing with the provisions effecting registration of the unorganised worker, wherein section 10, provides for eligibility conditions for such registration.  The provisions further speaks of making an application to the District Administration for registration and on such application the registration should be effected and such registered worker should be issued an identity card which is also treated as ‘smart card’ carrying a unique identification number.

And finally, the Act makes miscellaneous provisions, including the Central Government’s powers as to issuing directions under this Act, and making rules for the purpose of this Act and on matters enlisted under section 12. Similarly, the State Government is also empowered to make rules under this Act. Besides other provisions under this chapter, the Section 16 provides for saving clause, wherein the provisions of any corresponding law of the States, if having more beneficial effect, then the provisions of this Act should not affect them.

 by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan.