ESIC: Increase wage ceiling to include more workers

With large number of workers remaining outside the ambit of Employees State Insurance Scheme (ESIC), a Parliamentary panel has asked the government to increase the wage ceiling to include more in the social security programme.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) led by senior Congress MP K V Thomas is also positive about the ESIC admitting workers who can contribute voluntarily into the scheme but only after putting in place the required infrastructure.

At present, 67% (1.86 crore) of the (2.75 crore) organised workforce, which is only 4% of the of total work force (45.90 crore), is covered under the scheme.

Employees can avail the ESIC benefits if their wages do not cross Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000 in case of disabled workers.

The ESIC benefits include full medical facilities to insured workers and their dependants as well as cash compensation for any loss of wages in case of sickness, maternity and employment injury.

In its response to the panel on including the unorganised sector employees in the scheme , the Ministry of Labour and Employment said that the ESIC is exploring the feasibility of “bringing certain category of unorganised sector” within its ambit.

The committee felt that the ESIC should make all out efforts to increase coverage of the workforce and ensure that its existing services and infrastructure are enough to deal with the insured workers and their dependants.

The multi-party panel noted that the ESIC had proposed to increase the ceiling of coverage from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 but there has been “both support and opposition” to the proposal.

“The committee desire that the wage ceiling may be raised to include maximum number of workers under the scheme,” the report tabled in Parliament on Friday said. It felt that that the increase in wage ceiling would lead to better utilisation of under-utilised hospitals.

Talking about the enormous gap in coverage of eligible workforce, the panel said the ESIC should strive to create necessary infrastructure within a time-frame for inclusion of and providing health services to large number of workers. “Thereafter, the ESIC may also think of including workers who wish to be covered under the scheme and contribute voluntarily,” it said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 1, 2017)

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TMC’s tightrope walking in times of CBI probes

Trinamool Congress’ walkout just before a crucial vote on Finance Bill in Rajya Sabha has set tongues wagging even as party leaders insist that it is a message to Congress over its proximity to the Left parties.

The Trinamool MPs, who had amendments in their names to be moved in the Finance Bill on Tuesday, did not wait for their turn to press for the amendments and walked out amidst the voting was on.

While a section in the opposition sought to read it as Trinamool’s efforts to cosy up to the BJP following the Supreme Court directing a CBI probe into Narada sting operation, its leaders point out to its uneasiness over Congress cosying up to the CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal.

Trinamool Congress sources said they intended to sent a message to the Congress during the voting that they cannot take the party for granted in the name of Opposition unity.

The Mamata Banerjee-led party, which was in the forefront of demonetisation protests, was upset with Congress over its protests on Narada sting operation and its warm relationship with the Left.

The Congress floor managers in the Rajya Sabha had approached Trinamool Congress leaders to vote in favour of amendments moved by Opposition. However, surprised Congress leaders are trying to find fault with the Trinamool Congress, saying the party is in a bind over the CBI probes against its leaders and that was why it walked out.

Trinamool sources rubbish the claim, saying it was clear that their walk out would not have saved the government. “Everyone knew that Trinamool walkout will not save the government from embarrassment. We knew that our walkout will not affect the Opposition game plan. Then, why did that? We had a plan. We wanted to send a message to Congress,” a senior elader said.

Like Congress, CPI(M) also has refused to buy this argument. CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Trinamool did this to save itself from the probes against it.

“The CBI is probing the Narada sting where its MPs were seen taking money. It is trying to cut a deal with the BJP. The walkout was to send a message to BJP that they are willing to do business,” Yechury told reporters.

“The Trinamool is now seen as compromised. It’s bargaining power has been checkmated on both sides,” he added.

(Mar 30, 2017)

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