The much-touted national e-Shram database for informal workers, which the Narendra Modi government promised to set up following last year’s migrant crisis during the Covid-19 lockdown, is now operational.
Minister of labour and employment Bhupender Yadav launched the e-Shram portal on 26 August and handed it over to the states/union territories so registration of unorganised workers across the country could get underway.
Earlier in June, the government had received flak from the Supreme Court for a delay in making the portal operational. On 29 June, the court had set a deadline of 31 July for the Centre to make the portal operational.
The portal, which aims to develop a comprehensive database of unorganised labour in India, will ensure the formalisation of the workforce, industry bodies said.
Although the government hopes to register 380 million unorganised workers, the portal saw only around 165,000 workers in the unorganised sector register themselves on the first day of its launch.
The portal covers construction workers, migrant workers, street vendors, domestic workers, milkmen, truck drivers and fishermen, among others.
After unveiling the portal, labour and employment minister Bhupender Yadav said there was an estimated 380 million workers in the unorganised sector and the platform would help provide the benefits of various central and state welfare schemes to them, particularly in challenging times like these.
Workers registered on the portal will be provided with accidental insurance cover. They will be eligible for Rs 2 lakh in the event of them suffering death or permanent disability and Rs 1 lakh in the event of partial disability.
The minister said the registration process has been made simple so every worker can be covered by the scheme. “As many as four workers can register through one mobile handset. While those who don’t have mobile handsets can go to the nearest centre and get themselves registered by giving even thumb impressions,” he said.
The online portal allows workers to self-enrol through his/her Aadhaar and mobile number. In addition, a nationwide network of over four lakh Common Service Centres and selected post offices will act as registration centres, where workers can visit and register themselves free of cost.
The labour minister also called on all of India’s trade unions to mobilise support and awareness about the portal among workers.
However, trade unions urged the government to focus on implementation to ensure all workers are brought on-board. “The mere launch of the portal will not work,” said Binoy Kumar Sinha, general secretary of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. “The government will have to ensure its proper implementation and usage to bring all workers under the social security net.”
Unorganised workers in India face serious problems, ranging from job insecurity to dangerous working conditions. The Ministry of Labour and Employment’s Employment in Informal Sector and Condition of Informal Employment of 2015 report found that 82 per cent of those employed in farming (minus crop and animal husbandry), and the non-farming sector, did not have written job contracts; 77.3 per cent received no paid leave and 69 per cent were not eligible for any social security benefits.
When it comes to pay, the situation is no different. The Minimum Wages Act of 1948 has not been effectively implemented in most parts of the country. The Economic Survey of 2018-19 says the minimum salary law does not cover all wage workers and that “one in every three wage workers in India has fallen through the crack”.
The e-Shram portal is at: www.eshram.gov.in
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