New Delhi: In what seems to be a huge boost to uplift the poor, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government – seeking to strengthen its outlook before the all-important election in 2019 – has given its approval to one of the biggest schemes to support poor Indians. According to an Economic Times report, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has approved a plan proposed by the labour ministry for providing social security to cover for approximately 50 crore people. The move comes a year before the general elections, indicating that the ruling government is working towards improving its dented image, especially in the farm and agriculture sector. ‘
The details of the scheme are currently being streamlined but would benefit at least 40 per cent of the nation’s workforce when it would be fully rolled out. It should be noted that the social security scheme, set to cost the government at least Rs two lakh crore, is based on the universal social security code. An official requesting anonymity told the publication that PMO has already approved the scheme after meeting with top labour ministry officials. “Even the finance ministry is on board with the idea,” said the individual.
The idea of the scheme is loud and clear; the labour ministry wants the poorest in line to be aided by the scheme at the earliest and have requested the finance ministry for the same. The official went on to say that the scheme would take at least 5-10 year to come into effect in full force. The official said: “This would require a significantly less amount to start with and the fund allocation to the scheme can be enhanced later over the next 5-10 years to make it universal.”
The report suggested that a well-detailed social security scheme/system to provide relief to millions of underprivileged people was earlier proposed by the labour ministry. This scheme would cover benefits to such workers at the time of retirement, in case of disability, old-age, unemployment and other benefits. With the approval of this proposal, it would be the second-biggest social scheme to protect the poor; the first one being the National Health Protection Scheme, announced during the Union Budget, to provide Rs 5 lakh per family for 10 crore families.
Further, the social security scheme would be implemented in three phases over a period of 10 years, following which there are plans to make it universal. It may be noted that in the first phase, a minimum coverage would be provided to all workers; their benefits would include mostly health and retirement aides. In the second phase, unemployment would have more focus and the third phase would see an extended focus on welfare benefits.
For the distribution of social security schemes, the 50 crore people are likely to be categorised into four tiers, with people below the poverty line comprising the first tier as they are the ones who need benefits the most; the second tier would be composed of workers in the informal sector; the third would include individuals who can themselves or along with their employees make sufficient tax contributions. The fourth tier would comprise people who have the money or capital to meet needs easily.
The BJP government, which is under pressure in many states, is trying its best to woo the nation’s poor in order to make repeat its 2014 performance. It may be noted that it is also trying its best to reduce disruptions caused by demonetisation and GST at the time of their launch. While there is still disenchantment against the ruling government, it may get a considerable boost due to the announcement and approval of such schemes.