(The insertion of the phrase “any other body” in Clause 39 (5) of the Bill of the Code of Social Security, 2019 is a cunning bureaucratic act to facilitate handing over the mammoth medical colleges built by spending the funds of the Corporation to private individuals masquerading as “organisation of persons”. What prompted the draftsman to insert this phrase in the Bill is a question worth probing by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour. This clause can have no place in a law meant for providing social security to the people, which is a sovereign function of the State, in a civilised democracy. This phrase should be removed first and the persons who inserted it and the persons who advised them to insert it should be made accountable and answerable to the people. The following narrative attempts at explaining the intricacies behind this provision and the consequences of it.)
Early February 2020.
(Early February 2020. Pre-lockdown days. A luxury hotel in New Delhi. A glittering marriage function is going on. Only the ultra-rich were the invitees. Two of the invitees, Mr.A and Mr.B, just enter the premises. They are industrialists in different fields and are, therefore, close friends. The lifetime ambition of Mr. A is to reach the top 1% population of India and be counted as one among them. The Oxfam reports every year kept them propelled to do anything to achieve their dream. The top 1% which had in its possession 53% of the national resources in October 2015 had reached 58% in January 2016 and by January 2018 cornered a whopping 73%. These two men, though ultra-rich, were not computed within that top 1%. But Mr. A had been so particular about attaining that status had, therefore, been sad always. He wanted to amass more by acquiring more. And then he heard that there was a chance for him to take possession of the ESIC Hospitals, which had been constructed, unnecessarily, at various state capitals. He reckoned that if he acquired control of a few such medical colleges his image would increase phenomenally which he can use market himself more among those who were more moneyed than him. He could then move into the said 1% club, he perceived. It was in the backdrop, Mr. A wanted to meet Mr. B and examine the facts of the case and devise his further strategy. And they are there now in the marriage function just for their purpose.)
Mr. A: Good Evening Mr. B! (With a warm handshake) How do you do?
Mr. B: Fine, dear Mr. A! Come on, lets find a place for us to sit.
(Both of them search for a place which would be dark, although the restaurant is a glitzy one. And they find a relatively dark area and seat themselves comfortably.)
A: I find it comfortable when I sit in a shadowy area. The convenience is that we can see the others but they cannot see us.
B: True. It is just like the governments of the pre-RTI Act era.
A: I do not get it.
B: In those days when there was no RTI Act in force, rulers’ in power could see what people were doing but people could not see what the rulers were doing. Moreover, shadowy area suits us as we are inclined to indulge in many shady activities.
(Both of them laugh boisterously)
A: Yeah, now I know why the RTI Act is attempted to be diluted. Okay, Let us get down to brass tacks. What happened to the Labour Code on Social Security. I am waiting for it from 2017 onwards. My sources said some PPP, or Privatisation was being allowed to run the medical colleges built with the funds of the workers. But nothing came of it till date. I am also told that the drafts codes of 2017 and 2018 used many fine phrases to privatise anything and everything pertaining to social security, sprinkling within them the terms like Licence, Scheme, Fund Management Agency, Intermediate Agency, Point of Presence agency, Record Keeping Agency, Service Delivery Agency, etc., Yet people understood the motive behind these terminogies and opposed those drafts. Valuable time has been lost for me in that process.
B: Yes, you are right. Those draft Labour Codes on Social Security publicised in the years 2017 and 2018 were prepared by officials and some outside “experts” who had not been trained in legislative drafting. So people could easily see through those drafts. That was the reason for the strong opposition to those drafts, which the government could not explain away. Ultimately, the government dumped those two drafts lock, stock and barrel. The latest one published on 11.09.2019 has been done in a professional manner. So the mala fide intention behind that draft has been camouflaged very cleverly. It is very difficult for the people to traverse beyond the text and understand the real purpose behind various provisions.
A: Yes. After all, how many people would be ready to go through hundreds of pages to unearth the hidden agenda behind the draft. That is good for us anyway. My aim is to own the ESIC Hospitals constructed recently at New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. When shall I have them in my possession? I do not like to wait indefinitely. I am tired.
B: I find that you have no reason to worry. I have brought with me the copy of the bill No. 375 of 2019 dated 06.12.2019 placed before the Lok Sabha on 13.12.2019. Just go through Clause 39 (5). If the Bill gets passed, it will be called Sec. 39 (5). Read for yourself what that Clause says.
A: Give it to me. (Receives the paper and reads the relevant portion aloud). Clause 39 (5): “The colleges and training institutions referred to in sub-section (4) may be run by the Corporation itself or on the request of the Corporation by the Central Government, any State Government, any Public Sector Undertaking of the Central Government or the State Government or any other body notified by the Central Government.” Yes, I have read it. What does it mean? I wanted to run these three hospitals myself. I do not think that has been enabled here.
B: You are in a hurry. I think this is the first time you are seeing Bill tabled on the Lok Sabha. Now read the Clause. 41(5) of the draft put in public domain last on 17.09.2019. That was the third draft, the earlier ones being those publicised in 2017 and 2018 and which had been dumped. Now read that clause 41(5).
A: Let me see. (Reads aloud). Clause 41(5). “The colleges and training institutions referred to in sub-section (4) may be run by the Corporation itself or on the request of the Corporation by the Central Government, any State Government, any Public Sector Undertaking of the Central Government or the State Government or any person notified by the Central Government.” (He throws the paper on the table). Yes, I like this draft of 17.09.2019. It very clearly says that the medical colleges may be run by “any person”. I had only to get that permission given to me “notified” by the Central Government. That I can get it done in a jiffy. Why is it that the phrase “any person” is not available in the latest Bill placed before the Lok Sabha?
A: Why do you smile? That Clause 41 (5) of the 17.09.2019 precisely answered my requirement. I am upset that that Clause has not made it to the Lok Sabha.
B: (Again smiling). Now read again the Clause 39 (5) of the Bill now pending in the Lok Sabha. Do you see the phrase “any other body” incorporated therein?
A: Yes, I do. But that does not serve my purpose.
B: Do not be so rash! Now see the Explanation given below the said Sec. 39(5) in the Bill.
A: (Reads aloud) the Explanation under Clause 39 (5): “For the purposes of sub-section (5), the expression ‘‘other body’’ means any such organisation of persons which the Central Government considers capable to run colleges and training institutions referred to in sub-section (4).” (Pauses for a moment and then jumps with irrepressible joy) Yeah! I know, I know! Now, the words “other body” mean “organisation of persons” also. I can have any number of AOPs, the Associations of Persons. What a simple idea to easily take over the costly hospitals built at prime metros and run them merrily treating them as virtually my own hospitals”. Hurrah! Hurrah!!
(Now the guests who came for the marriage had been dancing. Seeing them, Mr. A drew away Mr. B along with him and joined the dancing group and continued dancing. He was very happy that he could become the virtual owner of three ESI Hospitals at New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, once the Bill on Social Security Code became law. His joy knew no bounds. He was dancing and dancing without noticing Mr. B’s withdrawal from dance. It was when he got tired because of his physical exertion that Mr. A sat on a sofa. And he was shocked to find Mr. B sitting there, looking worried and pondering over certain issue. Mr. B continued to look puzzled. And, Mr. A felt concerned.)
A: Mr. B! What is it you look concerned about something? You stopped dancing with us too, all of a sudden. Anything worrying you?
B: Yeah, I have a nagging question.
A: What is it?
B: All of a sudden, a question struck me. I am not able to find any logical or reasonable explanation. Mhm…… The ESIC is not able to run the medical colleges. But, why in the first place, they built so many medical colleges?
A: Don’t you know that? It is an interesting but sad commentary on the type of bureaucracy that we do have in India. Once the bureaucracy decided upon it, it manipulated the politicians in power according to its will, in every direction. Not only in forward direction but also in reverse also. And the politicians obliged them. There were so many hands in the till. Even the Ministry of Law and Justice played an active role in giving clearance to the controversial Bill to amend the ESI Act. The CAG too did not want to do his work right in detecting the crime. Anyway, my attention now is focused on getting my “organisation of persons” notified by the Central Government as one “capable”, as per Sec. 39 (5), to run the medical colleges and training institutions. I am now working on the manner in which I should float an Association of Persons (AOP) with appropriate papers to claim that I am capable of running medical colleges.
B: But you have not answered why they started building so many medical colleges all of a sudden.
A: Okay, I shall tell you! They started constructing so many medical colleges, all of a sudden, without even testing waters through Pilot project. It was because some persons in position wanted to loot the reserve funds of the ESIC in the name of construction activities. At that time, they said that they were constructing medical colleges “with a view to improve the quality of services provided under the Employees’ State Insurance Scheme.”
A: Also they said that the medical colleges were required to be run by the ESIC, to recruit doctors for running the ESIC Hospitals and dispensaries. That was a blatant lie but that statement was made to be believed by the Parliament which was shown to have voted, under questionable circumstances, for Sec. 59-B to be inserted accordingly in the parent Act.
A: Then what? They even went through a motion of getting bonds executed from the students who got graduated from the ESIC Medical Colleges. But when the doctors came out of these colleges, they were not recruited but outsiders were invited to apply.
A: Yeah. There was a somersault too. They admitted later that these massive structures constructed by them were a liability. They wanted to get rid of these white elephants born out of white-collar crimes. So, they said on 04.12.2014, that the “ESIC should exit the field of medical education entirely” as that was “not the core function of the organization”. They, therefore, wanted to divest those properties.
A: Even the CAG had recorded caustic comments in his report. He said, “Due diligence, if any, carried out to ascertain the number of colleges required to be opened, to fulfill the future requirement of doctors and other paramedical staff was not available”. (Para 2.6)
B: Was any action taken against anyone in this regard?
A: Neither the bureaucrats nor the politician in power ask themselves this question? The way they manipulated and cheated the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour at that time could serve a sad but interesting training material, a case-study paper to train the legislators about the way in which they would be cheated by bureaucrats. Even the tricks played by the British bureaucrats in the famous BBC serial, “Yes, Minister” would pale into insignificance before the tricks played by the Indian bureaucrats. So these bureaucrats do not have any concern about what you asked. Anyway, the proposed Sec. 39 (5) is now helping me to manipulate things and enabling me to run the medical colleges, virtually, as my own. I am only concerned about the manner in which I should make my moves. There would be many other ultra-rich and nouveau rich, who would be in the race and vie for these three medical colleges. But I know how to win this race of the rich. I khow to conspire against them. I know the power centres. In fact, you can say that I am the power centre. After all, India is not ruled as per the norms governing real democracy. It is ruled by corrupt bureaucracy sidelining the honest among them. What else can you say about the decayed state of Indian democracy, when even the CAG does not file counter affidavit in important cases for years and does not care to ensure that his actions should inspire confidence among the public? Be on the right side of that corrupt bureaucracy. You can become richer and make the poor poorer. And, that is how the 1% club came into existence in India.
(Both of them move towards the dinner hall).
Second Week of April 2020
(Second week of April 2020. Mr.A calls Mr. B over phone. Mr. B responds.)
A: Mr. B! How do you do? Heard the news?
B: I am fine Mr. A. What news do you talk about. In these days of lockdown due to Corona virus, I am getting to read many newspapers online. All are full of news only about Corona.
A: That is good. You know that the government thinks of bringing out an ordinance to enforce the provisions of the Code of Social Security, which was placed before the House of the People on 06.12.2019? It was referred to the Standing Committee of parliament on 23.12.2019. It had to give its report within three months. But the time granted was extended up to the commencement of the Monsoon Session that would begin in July 2020. I got fed up. My dream of taking three medical colleges at the three metros was getting delayed. Now the news is that the government is toying with the idea of bringing out an Ordinance to enforce the Social Security Code.
B: How can there be an Ordinance for this Code, even when the matter is pending with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and that Committee has not yet given its report? In fact that draft had never been placed before the public for discussion by stakeholders, after the PMO returned in the first week of October 2019, the 17.09.2019 draft code. Even the action of the government in having introduced that document before the Lok Sabha on 11.12.2019 was wrong.
A: Hey! Who cares for all these niceties. I am for making use of the pandemonium created by Corona in the entire nation. This is the time opportune to get anything done for the ruling elite. I welcome the move. If rulers want to be powerful they should defy the law, defy the Constitution and defy the democratic conventions. If you want to be rich you make others poor. If you want to have power you make others weak. Now the Social Security structure of the nation is systematically weakened by the Code of Social Security, 2019 to make the rich richer. (Smiles heartily).