News: Over 2 crore people who have signed up for the Centre’s portal for unorganised sector workers hold a Graduate Degree.
- On August 26, 2021, the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) launched the E-Shram, the web portal for creating a National Database of Unorganized Workers (NDUW), which will be seeded with Aadhaar.
- It seeks to register an estimated 398-400 million unorganized workers and to issue an E-Shram card.
- It has come about even after repeated nudging by the Supreme Court of India. It is the result of state apathy.
- Had the Central and the State governments begun these legally mandated processes on time, much of the distress of lakhs of vulnerable workers would have been avoided. In fact, the political class owe an ‘apology’ to informal workers.
Issues with E-Shram
- Given the gigantic nature of registering each worker, it will be a long-drawn process.
- The Government has not mentioned a gestation period to assess its strategy and efficiency.
- Employers are or required their workers to register even. While the Government can appeal to them, any penal measure will hurt the ease of doing business.
- Considering the estimated 380 million workers as the universe of registration — debatable as the novel coronavirus pandemic has pushed lakhs of workers into informality.
- One of the vital concerns of e-portals is data security, including its potential abuse especially when it is a mega-sized database.
- There are also media reports pointing out the absence of a national architecture relating to data security.
- It has been reported that in some States such as Maharashtra, the server was down for a few days.
- Many workers will not have an Aadhaar-seeded mobile or even a smartphone. Aadhaar-seeding is a controversial issue with political overtones, especially in the North-eastern regions.
- There are several issues concerning the eligibility of persons to register as well as the definitional issues.
- By excluding workers covered by EPF and ESI, lakhs of contract and fixed-term contract workers will be excluded from the universe of UW. Hazardous establishments employing even a single worker will have to be covered under the ESI, which means these workers also will be excluded.
- The NDUW excludes millions of workers aged over 59 from its ambit, which constitutes age discrimination.
- Many are circular migrant workers and they quickly, even unpredictably, move from one trade to another.
- Many others perform formal and informal work as some during non-office hours may belong to the gig economy, for example as an Uber taxi or a Swiggy employee. They straddle formal and informal sectors.
- Even though MOLE has included gig workers in this process, it is legally unclear whether the gig/platform worker can be classified first as a worker at all.
- The central government will have to depend on the State governments for this project to be successful.
- In many States, the social dialogue with the stakeholders especially is rather weak or non-existent. The success of the project depends on the involvement of a variety of stakeholders apart from trade unions.
- There is also the concern of corruption as middle-service agencies such as Internet providers might charge exorbitant charges to register and print the E-Shram cards.
- Workers stand to gain by registration in the medium to long run. But the instant benefit of accident insurance upto ₹0.2 million to registered workers is surely not an attractive carrot.
- The main point of attraction is the benefits they stand to gain during normal and crisis-ridden periods such as the novel coronavirus pandemic now which the Government needs to disseminate properly.
- E-Shram is a vital system to provide hitherto invisible workers much-needed visibility.
- It will provide the Labour Market Citizenship Document to them.
- The govt should go one step further for triple linkage for efficient and leakage-less delivery of all kinds of benefits and voices to workers/citizens: One-Nation-One-Ration Card (ONOR), E-Shram Card (especially bank account seeded) and the Election Commission Card. Last but not least, registrations cannot be a source of exclusion of a person from receiving social assistance and benefits.