People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 20, 2008


Resolution On Unorganised Sector Workers

THIS 19th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) expresses its strong protest against the failure of the UPA government to provide a comprehensive legislative framework to protect the rights of workers in the unorganised sector and workers in the agricultural sector. A large majority of these workers belong to the most socially oppressed sections of our people. Over 94 percent of all working women are employed in the unorganised sector.

One of the commitments of the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA government is “to ensure the welfare and well being of all workers, particularly those in the unorganised sector, who constitute 93 per cent of work force.” In pursuance of this commitment, a National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector was constituted under the chairmanship of Dr Arjun Sengupta. It recommended separate bills, backed by adequate financial allocations, for unorganised workers and agricultural workers.

The commission’s report, based on 61st Round (2004-05) of the National Sample Survey, shows that a large majority of the country’s workforce, or 22.6 million workers out of a total workforce of 457.5 million, work in the most terrible conditions, with no protective legislation for guaranteed income, social security or safe working conditions. It shows that, even in the organised sector, almost half the workers, that is around 29.2 million people, do not have job security or social security benefits. The commission, therefore, rightly included them in the category of unorganised workers. According to the report, 77 percent of the country’s population, a large section of whom are in the unorganised sector, live on less than 20 rupees a day.

The government delayed bringing the necessary legislation and widespread discontent among the workers was expressed in a historic countrywide strike organised by the CITU in August 2007. The government finally brought a bill that makes a mockery of the recommendations of the commission. It provides only enabling clauses to form advisory bodies at state and central levels that are to prepare schemes for unorganised workers, without any committed financial backing by the government. It does not include the important recommendation for separate legislation for unorganised sector workers and agricultural workers, even though the prime minister himself had given a written assurance to the central trade unions in 2006 that this would be done. Instead, the government is trying to project its insurance scheme, Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana, only for BPL sections of unorganised workers, to which state governments are expected to make a 50 percent contribution, as a substitute. At a time when more than 42 crore workers require social security coverage, the alternative scheme covers only a negligible number.

In contrast, in spite of severe financial constraints, the Left-led governments of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura have provided social security benefits to different sections in the unorganised sector.

The 19th Congress welcomes the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, which, after studying the bill, accepted the demands for separate laws for unorganised workers and agricultural workers; for the creation of a National Social Security and Welfare Fund; for a comprehensive health and social security scheme wholly funded by the centre; and for accident cover, health insurance and maternity benefits, also to be funded wholly by the central government.

The 19th Congress demands that the government accept the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and make the required changes in the bill that is under consideration by parliament.

The 19th Congress of the CPI(M) calls for a powerful united movement in the country to force the government to bring justice to the most neglected and exploited strata of the workforce.