The Times of India carried the following news item today, the 30th April 2021.
It says that the Government of India has “announced a slew of measures for beneficiaries of the ESIC, who are afflicted by Covid-29, including free medical care to insured persons adn their family members in any of the 21 ESI Hospitals ….;;;;”. The news item goes on describing not only the reimbursement facilities but also explains how 70 % of the beneficiary’s average daily wages for a maximum of 91 days could be availed of by them as Sickness Benefit.
If only the Government of India had enforced the Code on Social Security, 2020, which was made law, in an unlawful manner in September 2020, this sort of publicity blitz could not have been made and real medical care could not be extended to the insured persons in a meaningful way. The IPs would then be paid Sickness Benefit only on the basis of the definition of the term ‘Wages’ on the basis of Minimum Wages as per Sec. 2 (y) of the Code on Wages, 2019.
Fortunately the IPs and the Government have been saved by the existing ESI Act, 1948.
Hope the authorities now realise the importance of the well-thought out provisions in the ESI Act, 1948, especially the definition of the term ‘wages’ under Sec. 2 (22) and retain that section as it is, by removing the present Sec. 2 (88) of the Code on Social Security, 2020.
Mr. Ratan Tata has, in the context of the living conditions of the poor in Dharavi of Mumbai, said that we should think over about the “acceptable standards of quality of life”. He has added, “… we’re dealing with populations that need to be a part of new India. We are creating a community which we are ashamed of. We should be driven by the desire of creating a world culture” (Times of India 21.04.2020).
ESIC assures proper and acceptable standards of quality of life. The quantum of these benefits should be the goal post and the extension of coverage under the ESI Act itself is possible to all sectors of the society as per Sec. 1 (5). The Code on Social Security, 2020 is an ill-thought out statute. Let the same benefits as are available now under the ESI Act be extended in future too to the working population in all sectors.
“The package (of benefits provided by the ESIC) can rarely be matched by private employers on their own because of the heavy costs involved – not to mention the disinclination among employers, with honorable exceptions, to operate health care systems for their workforce” – The Hindu (1.1.2005)