Adopted at the 20th Congress of the CPI(M), Kozhikode, April 4-9, 2012
Ensure Social Security for All Toilers
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demands that all sections of the toiling people, particularly the vulnerable sections, be brought under the cover of social security. The Central government should allocate adequate financial resources to ensure universal social security.
Social security benefits like pension, provident fund, free access to medical facilities etc. are hard won rights of the working class secured through decades of struggle in the twentieth century. These gains are now being reversed through privatisation of pension funds, provident funds and cuts in subsidies and welfare benefits. The neoliberal austerity measures being implemented across the world today specifically target the social security benefits in order to pass on the burden of the economic crisis to the working people.
In India, the overwhelming majority of the 46 crore strong workforce, a large number of them women, is outside the cover of any social security. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) estimated that 93% of the total workforce was employed in the unorganised sector in 2004-05. The situation has not improved since then, as the NSS 2009-10 data clearly show. This vast mass of people, comprising of the informal sector workers, contractual labourers, self-employed persons, agricultural workers and small peasants, are not entitled to any pension, provident fund or health rights. The pension schemes for senior citizens, widows or disabled persons are so restrictive that the bulk of these vulnerable sections do not benefit from them.
The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, enacted in 2008 on the eve of the general elections, has thoroughly failed to provide for universal and comprehensive social security. Ten already existing social welfare schemes, most of which cover only the BPL segments of the population, have been extended to the unorganised sector workers. With the ridiculously low BPL criteria of the government, more than 90% of the unorganised sector workers are left out of the purview of these schemes. The important recommendations of the NCEUS for universal coverage have been ignored. Only in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura under the Left Front have sought to implement the recommendations.
The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), is mostly restricted to the BPL population. Budget 2012 proposes to spend Rs. 1568 crore on RSBY (including MGNREGA workers) in the current year, which amounts to only around Rs. 550 worth of benefits per worker. Such a token amount will fail to provide any meaningful health insurance coverage. The National Social Security Fund for Unorganised Workers has not been allocated additional funds after the initial allocation of Rs. 1000 crore in 2010.
This Congress holds that health schemes in the name of health security using an insurance model actually channels public funds to private medical sector. India requires a strong public health system which will provide comprehensive health care.
The existing social security cover for the organised sector employees, both in the public and private sectors, is also under threat. The interest rate for the Employees Provident Fund has once again been slashed from 9.5% to 8.25%, affecting millions of workers and employees. The PFRDA Bill seeks to privatise pension funds, allow FDI in the sector and facilitate the investment of pension funds in the speculative stock market.
Under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension scheme, a measly amount of Rs. 400 to Rs. 500 per month is given to old age persons under BPL, out of which the central government bears only Rs. 200 per person. The needs of senior citizens are grossly neglected. Despite repeated demands, the Government has refused to enact legislation to ensure comprehensive social security for the agricultural workers, who are the most exploited. Bulk of the rural poor in India is outside any social security coverage. The paltry budgetary allocations for the social security schemes constrain the capacity of the Central and State governments to expand the coverage of social security. The total Central Plan Outlay for social security and welfare in Budget 2012 was Rs. 18190 crore, which is only around 0.18% of GDP.
The neo-liberal policies pursued by the central government seek to restrict social security to mere tokenism. The 20th Congress of the CPI (M) demands that the government abandon its anti-people approach and make adequate financial allocations to ensure universal coverage of minimum social security benefits comprising of:
Ø Old age pension above 60 years and extended benefits for senior citizens
Ø Widow pension
Ø maternity benefits etc
Ø Life and accidental coverage
Ø Disability allowance
Ø A public health system that is adequately financed and accessible to all
These social security benefits should be extended to all sections of the toiling people: the informal sector workers including home-based workers, contractual labourers, self-employed persons, agricultural workers and small peasants. The BPL eligibility criteria for social security should be discarded forthwith.
The 20th Congress of the CPI (M) calls upon all sections of the toiling people to unite and launch sustained struggles to secure their right to social security.