IANS and Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, June 30: The Central government wants social security schemes like EPF and ESIC to cover more and more people in the Northeastern region, Union Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said here on Tuesday. He was speaking to the media after holding a regiol conference of all the Labour ministers of the NE states in Guwahati.
While schemes like Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) will be extended to more areas of the region, employment exchanges in some of the states will be converted into ‘model career counselling centres’ for the benefit of job-seekers, he said.
“While the employment exchange in Assam will be converted into a model career counselling centre, another such centre would be set up in Meghalaya capital Shillong,” said the Union minister. The proposed career counseling center at Guwahati will have facilities for skill development and technical training for the unemployed.
The Central government will also consider setting up career counselling centres in Aruchal Pradesh, Mizoram, galand and Sikkim if there are proposals from the states, he added. The government will also set up a vocatiol training centre in Tripura, he said.
“We want to open five EPF offices in the region, one each at Gangtok, Imphal, Itagar, Dimapur and in Aizawl so as to cover more people in the schemes,” Dattatreya said. “I have requested the state governments to provide us 10,000 square metres of area to set up offices in the states.” Presently only Guwahati in Assam has an EPFO office in the entire region.
The Union minister said the Central government also wants to upgrade the 50-bedded ESIC hospital in Guwahati to a 100-bedded one and work on it will start soon. The hospital is located at Beltola in the city. The coverage of ESIC facilities will also be extended to galand, Manipur and Aruchal Pradesh, Dattatreya informed.
“We will ask the state governments in NE states to survey the number of workers in the organised and the unorganised sectors and ensure that there are more numbers of insured people in these states,” he said.
When asked about minimum wages to tea garden labourers in Assam, Dattatreya said the Centre will take appropriate step after the State government sends a report.
The Union Labour minister revealed that the Centre is going to crack down on child labour by giving more teeth to the existing law. The pelty for violators of the Child labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act will be doubled from the present 3 months - 1 year jail term to 6 months – 2 years jail term while the fine will be raised from Rs 50,000 at present to Rs 80,000.
Calling for modernization of labour enforcement system through use of information technology Dattatreya said that as many as 44 Central labour laws will be simplified, ratiolized and amalgamated into four labour codes on wages, industrial relations, social security & welfare, and safety & working environment. In this context, the Union Labour minister called upon the states to initiate similar action to reform and simplify labour laws for higher productivity and economic growth.
As for using information technology for labour laws compliance, the Union Labour minister spoke about the ‘ShramSuvidha’ portal launched to bring about transparency and accountability in enforcing labour laws while reducing complexity of compliance. It ebles submission of a single return for eight labour laws.
Dattatreya also pointed out that employers are being issued labour identification number (LIN) while employees in the organized sector are being issued universal account number (UAN) which is portable. So far, 9.5 lakh establishments have been issued LINs, while 4.5 crore workers have been issued UANs which will go a long way in ensuring them social security benefits.
Mentioning the commitment of the rendra Modi government to bring about inclusive growth, the Union Labour spoke of the initiatives undertaken for unorganized workers and vulnerable workforce. The Prime Minister is planning to launch a tiol scheme in July under which unorganized workers will be issued smart cards (UWIN), which will provide a platform to link all social security schemes for such workers. These central schemes include the PM Jan Dhan scheme, Atal pension scheme, PM Jivan Jyoti life insurance scheme and PM Suraksha accident insurance scheme. Since the UWIN card will be issued by the states, Dattatreya called upon state governments to cooperate once the scheme is launched.
Earlier, iugurating the conference of NE Labour ministers as chief guest, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi while welcoming the initiative of the central government in introducing labour reforms, also called for amendment of the Labour Act. He emphasized that Assam should continue receiving 90:10 funding as a special category state, and the Centre should renew fincial support for the people-oriented schemes his government has been undertaking.