The ESI Corporation meeting held today, the 7th April 2015, has decided to defer the matter pertaining to the amendments proposed to be made to Sec. 44 of the Act to enable the private players to have a role in the Social Security field. We are grateful to the Hon’ble Minister for Labour, the Chairman of the ESI Corporation, for having agreed to the suggestions of the Members of the ESI Corporation. That is grace and that is great! We thank all the Members of the ESI Corporation who helped the Chairman arrive at this correct decision.
While there cannot be two opinions about revamping the method of functioning of the ESI Corporation, the fact is that the private players who may desire to enter into this field cannot provide the package of benefits that is provided by the ESIC. The very fact that none of the employers at present is able to get exemption by satisfying the provisions of Sec. 87 of the Act testifies to this fact.
Here is a golden opportunity for the Hon’ble Minister for Labour to take it as an experiment to tune up the functioning of the ESIC. The action-plan for revitalising the organisation can start with the following:
1. Corruption control must be given priority. If sincere steps are taken in this regard, the organisation’s positive image will increase multi-fold. This organisation can be set apart as an experimental laboratory to see how corruption-control measures can result in improved public welfare.
2. First of all, the purchase procedure of medicines must be computerised so that it ensures transparency in finalisation of tender;
3. The methods of quality control of medicines supplied must be made transparent, without giving any room for collusion between the suppliers and the officers of the ESIC.
4. The dispensaries and hospitals run by the State Governments may also be supplied with medicines purchased centrally by the ESIC, so that there is uniformity of standards throughout the nation in all the ESIS institutions. The cost of the medicines thus supplied to the State Governments can be adjusted in the funds transferred to them, every quarter.
5. The Regional Offices, ESIC hospitals and dispensaries must be fixed with CCTV everywhere so that the demands for and acceptance of bribe can be monitored. There had been many cases where the allegations of demand of bribe had been found to be true from the demeanour of the persons involved but could not be proved satisfactorily. In such cases, the visuals from the CCTVs would have helped establish truth.
6. Proper transfer policies introduced in the year 2005 and implemented up to 2007 should be enforced, once again, in a transparent manner treating everyone alike, especially in respect of officers in the cadre of Social Security Officers and above. Treating everyone alike will result in obedience of everyone to law besides helping the administrators to resist political or other kind of pressure, if any.
7. Number of Inspections have been reduced. But, the fact is that the purpose of inspections is only to advance the purpose of the Act by detecting concealed employment and concealed wages. So, proper inspections may be encouraged. Honest employers would not have any grudge in producing their records and account books to the SSOs for inspection. Any corruption in the area of inspection, assessment of contribution, etc., can be tackled easily when the Administrators are given free hand.
8. The attitudinal change of the wavering staff members on the Administration side and those in the medical and para-medical side can be brought about, with adequately positive result, if they are made to understand that there is no scope for corrupt activity or indiscipline. Besides, all the staff members must be made to know the history of the scheme in depth. That will make them know that they are part of an organisation in a mission.
9. Moreover, the views of pseudo-intellectuals who are campaigning, vigorously, against the ESIC and EPFO, with their one-sided propaganda, by abusing their access to the power centres, should not be accepted as gospel truth as has been done while presenting the budget by including the word ‘hostages’ therein. The views of such persons must be made public and the views of the other side invited and examined with open mind.
Once an EPF Inspector in Maharashtra intimated his programme to visit a factory on a particular day. When, he was walking towards the factory, on that particular day, a person in a tea shop at the corner of the street, just accosted the EPF Inspector and provided him with precise details of employees working in the said factory but had not been covered under the EPF Scheme. His name was also in that list of such omitted employees. Such instances were many and ubiquitous.
It proves that the employees wanted EPF coverage and were ready for deduction of EPF contribution from their wages. Contributing to EPF is, thus, considered positively as savings by every employee. Even when there is no deduction of any kind from the wages, an employee would want to save and, therefore, set aside a portion of his earnings for the future. The employees would not resent deduction of EPF contribution, from their wages.
But, one spin-doctor, goes to town with his irrepressible tirade that this kind of recoveries amount to ‘confiscation’. What an ingenuous idea of trying to make the people believe that heaven is not heaven at all but hell ! One is reminded of Hitler who said, “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise”….