Only a very small section of workers in our country are formally covered by social security benefits like Provident Fund, Employees State Insurance (ESI) medical benefits, maternity benefits, accident compensation, gratuity, pension, etc. There is no social security for those who are unemployed, those who are injured at work, the sick and the aged. They are all left to fend for themselves.
Peasants and agricultural workers who are toiling to fulfill a basic need of society through their labour are completely excluded from any kind of social security. It is the duty of society to provide security to peasants and agricultural workers when they are unable to work because of old age. It is the duty of society to ensure health care for the families of the peasants and agricultural workers. They are demanding a pension of Rs 5000 per month, and public health care.
Many of those who are formally covered by one or another social security act are deprived of its benefits in practice, because of the capitalist domination of the State. As a result of relentless struggle of the working class, there are 15 laws relating to social security. These include acts relating to specific sections, such as the construction workers, beedi workers, cinema workers and mine workers. However, what is promised in law is denied on the ground in the majority of cases. It is not enforced by the existing state machinery. When workers stop contributing to these schemes, because of losing their job or for any other reason, they end up losing their right to social security benefits.
The present government is proposing to replace the existing laws with a new Code on Social Security. It claims this new Code will provide social security for all. This is a big fraud on the workers. It is a fraud of the same nature as that perpetrated by the previous government in 2009, when it enacted the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act. Neither the Congress-led UPA government nor the BJP-led NDA government has backed up their words with adequate money to ensure social security for workers in so-called unorganized sectors.
Over the past two decades, successive governments have acted to wreck the ESI system of affordable health care for the working class. Successive governments have refused to expand the number of hospitals and dispensaries so as to service the growing numbers of workers in need. Policy decisions have all been taken to benefit private hospitals and health insurance companies, by ensuring that ESI transfers cases to them.
To top it all, the funds which are meant for workers’ security are now under threat of being looted by greedy capitalists. In the past 15 years, less than 25 per cent of the funds meant for the social security of construction workers has been spent for that purpose. Similar is the situation with the funds of beedi workers and some others. Today, the government is sitting on Rs. 12 lakh crore of workers’ savings in ESI, Provident Fund, Coal Mine Workers Fund, Construction Workers Fund, etc. It proposes to invest these funds in the stock market, for the benefit of the capitalist monopoly houses!