Category Archives: Labour Code 2020

Maternity Benefits under SS Code : Piloting it the wrong way ! – Part 1

 

Maternity Benefit slide_page-0001 (2)

The year was 1983. The ESI Corporation wanted to make some path-breaking changes and to bringing in suitable amendments. The Contribution Card system with stamps had already been replaced with the Contribution Card system with cash. The issue now was that the classification of employees into three sets, viz., A, B and C, was to be given a go by. Common Contribution Period and Benefit Period was being contemplated. The Hqrs. Office of the ESI Corporation asked the Regional Directors to offer their opinion. The Regional Directors asked, in turn, the field officers the Managers of the Local Offices and the Insurance Inspectors to explain their stand. The outcome was the evolvement of law which ensured the introduction of new system providing for all the practical difficulties in its implementation.  The opinions offered ensured that the procedure evolved was not only not cumbersome but also one that advanced the purpose of the Act.

Hear the subordinates

Such a practice of obtaining opinions from subordinates in the field was followed, again in the year 1988, before certain vital amendments were made in the ESI Act, in the year 1989. The management principle recommended by Mr. Gordon M.Bethune, former Chief Executive of the Continental Airlines was to ‘hear the subordinates’. For, he knew that they knew more about the work and the weak-spots.

Gordon Continental Airlines

Mr. Bethune said, “I was a mechanic in the Navy. And mechanics in the Navy are like mechanics in airlines. You may have more stripes than I do, but you don’t know how to fix the airplane. You want me to fix it? You know how much faster I could fix the airplane when I wanted to, than when I didn’t want to? So I’ve always felt that if you treat me with respect, I’ll do more for you.”…”And we never lied. You don’t lie to your own doctor. You don’t lie to your own attorney, and you don’t lie to your employees.” (Corner Office -Adam Bryant – 02.01.2010 – New York Times).

Legislative Policy,  kept a mystery

But, here is a bureaucracy, now, at the centre, especially in the Ministry of Labour & Employment and in the Ministry of Law & Justice, which does not hear even the Corporation, the supreme body of the ESI Corporation, let alone its Director General or his subordinates. Because many of the provisions in the Bill No. 375 of 2019 are intended to destroy the well-conceived social security network that provides social insurance and enable the private players to loot the masses in the name of commercial insurance. The bureaucracy is, therefore, afraid of the proper law-making process.

What is more? Even the Director General of the ESI Corporation and the Central PF Commissioner of the EPFO were not made aware beforehand and at every crucial stage, what was being drafted by the Drafting Team of the Labour Code, although the Ministry of Labour enacted a drama of roping in some junior officers from these organisations to be part of the team. More of this can be read in the following links:

https://flourishingesic.info/2017/05/25/slave-labour-code-unlimited-rights-to-the-drafting-team/
https://flourishingesic.info/2017/05/26/the-drafting-committee-of-the-constitution-vs-the-drafting-team-of-the-labour-code/
https://flourishingesic.info/2017/05/29/drafting-team-was-trying-to-finish-off-the-epfo-was-the-cpfo-aware/

These two ministries have been made captives by their political masters, and have been made to prepare a law that is intended to serve only those private interests and not public interest. In the absence of publication of the Legislative Policy, the Bill No. 375 of 2019 deserve only be categorised as a Private Bill dressed up as a Bill mooted by the government.

Innumerable dubious words, phrases and clauses inserted on the sly at various places for wrong reasons in the said Bill, indicate clearly that the intention of these Ministries is not to give priority to run the ESIC corruption-free  but to destabilise it and provide a ground for the private players to cheat and loot the public. These bureaucrats forget or suppress that the ESI Act does not prevent private players from operating even now on the same field, provided they are ready to provide benefits which are superior or substantially similar to the ones provided by the ESI Corporation. That they are not interested in giving priority to eradicate corruption would become evident from the manner in which the CAG himself has not filed counter-affidavit in the W.P. 35184 of 2016 pending before the Hon’ble High Court of Madras for the past four years.

Pulling wool over the eyes of law-makers

The Statement of Objects and Reasons and the Notes on Clauses, justifying the Bill No. 375 of 2019 are full of half-information, misinformation, disinformation and no-information on various core issues. They are intended to deceive the parliamentarians and get them vote for this dubious Bill to make it a law. The method of manipulation adopted by them in meddling with the Maternity Benefit provisions, through this ill-conceived Bill would give real shock to every well-meaning citizen. The unholy nexus between the ‘educated’ officers in these Ministries and the ‘private interests’, causes the former to assist the latter by subverting the due process of law, and enacting laws which are clearly against the interests of the working women whose living conditions do not matter for these high-paid officials.

Their actions bring into existence a law that would never attain its proclaimed goal but would ensure that the society is made chaotic and insecure. There is no explanation anywhere as to why and by whom and at whose instance various unlawful tinkerings have been made in the ESI Scheme, without any written direction to anyone by anyone. What has happened is a conspiracy by the top officials against the large masses of the nation whose voice cannot be heard and whose living conditions do not matter for these officials. All these officials are required to be made accountable for such commissions and omissions. They are the persons responsible for piloting the highflying aircraft to disastrous crash.

Clause 32 (1) (b) and Clause 32 (3) of the Chapter IV read with the entire Chapter VI of the Bill on the Code on Social Security, 2019 (Bill No. 375 of 2019) in the matter of Maternity Benefit provide a classic example of collusion of various vested interests to deny the large multitude of workingwomen of the nation the Maternity Benefit that was available to them under the existing provisions of the ESI Act for decades and decades.

Shock ad infinitum

The manner in which questionable words, phrases and clauses have been inserted at various places, in the Bill No. 375 of 2019, with the intention of cheating the workforce, causes a lot of depression and annoyance even for a reader. One wonders how the educated bureaucrats could stoop so low to deceive the poor people of the nation and to please the rich anti-labour elements and prepared such a draft Code to make patently unlawful things lawful. It is very sad and it causes depression and annoyance in the reader. One has to take a lot of efforts to motivate oneself to come out of such depression, before and for writing about the social impact of such cunning insertions in the Code.

The text of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 shows that the persons behind the Bill wanted to drastically reduce the quantum of Maternity Benefit available to the working women and make it just a farce. And the bureaucracy obliged willingly (Details in Part 2).

ESI Act and MB Act do not go together

When the ESI Act 1948 is in force in a factory or establishment, there is be no need or scope for the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 to be applied to the Insured Women of that unit. For example, when the wage ceiling for coverage under the Maternity Benefit Act is Rs. 15000 pm, and the wage ceiling for coverage under the ESI Act is Rs. 21000 pm, there will be no need for the Insured Women covered under the ESI Act to seek benefit under the Maternity Benefit Act. The Maternity Benefit Act, therefore, does not operate and is not applicable to the said factory or establishment, as had been made clear in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Maternity Benefit Act in the year 1961 itself.

Yet there was the need for the Maternity Benefit Act to be in existence, as all the factories and establishments everywhere in the nation were not covered or coverable under the ESI Act.  The ESI Act could not be implemented and is not implementable everywhere, in practice, unless there was a cluster of factories or establishments justifying the setting up of a dispensary with doctors, nurses and para medical staff ( or at least a mobile dispensary ) before implementing the provisions of the ESI Act in that area. Consequently, the factories and establishments in outlying areas were made to enforce the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, for the women working there. In other words, whenever the ESI Corporation wants to extend its operation to a new area where there are adequate number of factories and establishments and the families of insured persons, it is required to notify through the gazette of its intention to implement the scheme in that area. Such an area is called as “Implemented Area”. The ESI Act can thus be extended only in phases.

That was the reason the phrases, “different dates” and “different parts” have been inserted in Sec. 1 (3) of the ESI Act, in the year 1951 itself very thoughtfully.  But the present Bill on the Code on Social Security does not show that it took into account the concept of “Implemented Area” at all, when its Clause 1 (3) it refers to the applicability of the Code which is pending consideration of the Lok Sabha now.

As a result, one has to presume that the persons who drafted the Bill No. 375 of 2019 intended to enforce the provisions of the present ESI Act everywhere throughout India at one go, through the aforesaid Clause 1 (3) and Chapter IV of the said Bill. Well, but one does not understand the need, then, for the enforcement of the provisions of MB Act, 1961 anywhere in India, through Chapter VI of the same Bill.

ESI Act and MB Act can go together

Still, it is possible to enforce the enforce the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (proposed Chapter VI of the Bill No. 375 of 2019) in the same factory in which the ESI Act, 1948 (proposed Chapter IV of the same Bill) is in force, if the wage ceiling for coverage of working women under the Maternity Benefit Act (proposed Chapter VI) is more than the wage ceiling prescribed under the ESI Act (proposed Chapter IV). But such decisions had never been taken by the government during the last 59 years, after the Maternity Benefit Act came into force. The liability to pay the Maternity Benefit under the ESI Act, 1948, is taken over by the ESI Corporation while the liability to pay the same benefit under the MB Act, 1961, is on the shoulders of the employers, with varies consequences.   The wage ceiling for coverage under the MB Act, 1961 had, therefore, been kept always below the ceiling provided under the ESI Act, 1948.

In other words, the ESI Act and the MB Act cannot apply to the same factory or establishment as long as the wage ceiling for coverage under the MB Act remains lower than the ceiling provided under the ESI Act.

In other words, the ESI Act and the MB Act cannot apply to the same set of working women at one and the same time. Consequently, Chapter IV of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 and Chapter VI thereof cannot apply to the same set of working women at one and the same time. The provisions of Chapter IV would alone prevail.

Definitions and absence of definitions

While these are vital technical incongruities in the Bill No. 375 of 2019, with reference to the definition and absence of definition for crucial words, which do have far-reaching consequences, the definition of the term ‘wages’ given in the said Bill and is made applicable for Chapter IV and VI make the entire Code a chimera. The Code simply pretends to provide Maternity Benefit to working women while it actually reduces drastically the benefit now available to them both under the ESI Act, 1948 and the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. (This happens not only to the Maternity Benefit but also to all other benefits provided under the ESI Act, at present).

\The significance of such lapses in the Bill will be placed before the readers in the upcoming pieces, pertaining to Maternity Benefit, separately one by one, with reference to various court verdicts under the MB Act, 1961. They are stories of human tragedies showing the conflict of interest in the functional relationship between the benefit-needing employees and the profit-seeking employers (who prefer donating hefty amount to the political parties and bribing the politicians and officials while, at the same time, reducing the wages and total strength of their staff). Numerous instances of such cruelties are on record throughout the world indicating the uncivilised nature of the Strong against the Weak and Meek.

It would be appropriate in the context to recall an incident that had happened more than a century ago when an employer did not want to pay Disablement Benefit to his employee who was suffering from life-threatening employment injury sustained by him during the course of and out of his employment in the factory of the employer concerned. The employer chose rather to pay a hefty fee to a ‘clever’ lawyer, who used all the dishonest means to enact a drama in the court and had, sadly but successfully, helped the employer deny the legitimate dues payable to the poor workman. The present Bill No. 375 of 2019 is, directly, leading the Indian society in that undesirable direction.

Employee Vs. Employer

It was the 19th century England when Commoners chose to sit and suffer injustice in silence than to stand up and fight against in the costly courts. Not every employer in England was the noble George Cadbury. The money power of merciless employers and the cleverness of dishonest lawyers worked against the workmen.   As a result, cases were decided not on facts.

There was an employee of a railroad company who had sustained injury during the course of employment. He was denied compensation by the employer-company. He approached the court seeking remedy. His case was that the accident had resulted in his becoming a victim of neurasthenia or nervous prostration. The evidence produced by him showed that because of that problem, his mental and physical health had deteriorated rapidly. It was also proved during the cross-examination of an expert doctor that the workman was suffering from neurasthenia. The expert witness informed the Court that the workman suffered no pain when pricked with a pin on top of the head and that was a sure sign of his suffering from neurasthenia.

The lawyer for the defendant-company of the employer began his argument. He was “an ex-judge, somewhat advanced in years and exceedingly resourceful”. Incidentally, “he was as bereft of hair as the oft-cited billiard ball. When it came time to argue the case to the jury, he proceeded to expound the facts with clearness and vigour for a considerable length of time and finally approached the subject of neurasthenia.”

He paid his respects to the learned doctor who was called in as an expert witness. He then expressed his surprise and astonishment at the conclusion arrived at during the examination that “one who did not experience pain by the prick of a pin on the top of the head was a neurasthenic and rapidly progressing to complete mental decline.”  He, then, informed the jury that he was under the impression that he was a man of reasonable physical vigour and had always supposed that he was still possessed of his normal mental faculties. But he became afraid that he discovered that he himself was a hopeless neurasthenic as per the evidence given by the expert doctor. If he was a patient suffering from neurasthenia, he had no business trying lawsuits, but “should be preparing rapidly to meet his Maker”, he added.

“Thereupon he turned back the lapel of his coat and extracted good-sized needles, which he promptly stuck in the top of his head. He kept this up until he had some ten or twelve needles sticking in the top of his bald head and looked like an animated pin cushion”. He finished his argument.” Everyone was stunned.  The verdict returned was “in favour of the defendant”, i.e., the employer.

But what had happened was that the lawyer had got a portion of his scalp injected with cocaine with the help of a physician to avoid feeling pain when sticking the pins on his head. He had thus cheated the Judge, the Jury and the Law with the only aim of denying the legitimate compensation payable to the workman who was actually suffering from neurasthenia as a result of the employment injury sustained by him.

In later years, the lawyer confided to the same judge, Mr. Justice Faville, “that the last needle got outside the area of the cocaine which his physician had hypodermically injected into his scalp just before he began his argument and had almost unmasked the hoax”. He had to pretend hard that there was no pain although the last needle gave him very sharp pain.  (Ref: Oxford Book of Legal Anecdotes – Michael Gilbert – Oxford University Press –Pages 10-11). The hapless worker simply suffered and there was no one to help him.

The Questions and the Answers

Who will save such workers from the tentacles of such employers and advocates, if not the State? What else should be the responsibility of the State? Why should the State abdicate its Constitutional responsibility and privatise the social security in India? Why should the people of a nation allow its rulers to make the State abdicate its responsibility to provide Social Security?

In the Indian context, which employee of the nation asked for lesser Maternity Benefit than what is being provided under the ESI Act? Should not the bureaucrats be made to give reply to this question in the appropriate forum?

Will these ‘educated’ bureaucrats who give all impressions that they prepared the draft Code without any legislative policy given by anyone, and have exercised unlimited discretion to prepare the Code as they pleased, allow the already evolved democracy in India to survive and allow the ESI Corporation to flourish?

Atifete 2

 

  • Let the Indian government hold a survey among the Insured Persons and the beneficiaries of the ESI Corporation first in a honest and transparent manner. A cursory survey done in Mumbai in the latter 1990s showed that 85% of the insured persons wanted the ESIC while 85% of the employers did not want. That sums up the entire picture.
  • Let them make the CAG, who is shying away from the W.P. 35184 of 2016 for the past four years, to file counter-affidavit at least now, that the bureaucratic cartel that colluded together in mismanaging the funds involving thousands of crores would come to light.
  • Let them allow the ESIC to be run corruption-free! The ESIC will, then, reach greater heights!!

(Contd.)

Images; Courtesy: Web.

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The humane Sec. 2 (22) Vs. The wicked Cl. 2 (80).

It is Corona times. The date is 25.05.2020. Lord Yama Dharma Raja is hovering over the earth along with his assistant, Chitragupta, watching the events taking place in various nations under lock-down. For the past three months there were unusual increase in the number of entrants to his Court. While on the move, he gets attracted by the conversation of two men in a cocktail party at a hotel in New Delhi. He stopped moving further and has started observing their conversation. Chitragupta, who is standing nearby, is also keen to hear the duo, who were drunk and did not care to keep anything secret. Their conversation reveals that they are power-brokers in the capital of India who get things done from the politicians in power as desired by the business magnates who engage them. This night they are in an ebullient mood, feeling buoyant as if they are swimming in a pool of alcohol. Their conversation reveals that they are Mr. Wall and Mr. Suffer.

Mr. Suffer: Have some more drinks please! (Pours more into the glass of his companion).

Mr. Wall: Yes, Mr. Suffer! I agree, we should go on drinking and drinking. You can float in a pool of alcohol only as long as you swim. You will sink, if you stop swimming. Pour me more, I am so happy that we could influence the people in power to prepare the Code on Social Security the way our masters wanted.

Mr. Suffer: What a nice thing we have done! We have virtually wrecked the entire social security structure in India but project the image that we are expanding the structure. I am not able to control laughing. Nobody knows that a social security enactment of the nation could be so easily wrecked by tampering with the definition of the terms ‘employee’ and ‘wages’. Hah hah haa! We have poured hot water just at the root of the plant. And, it won’t be noticed by anyone. With this one single shot through Cl. 2 (26) and Cl. 2 (80) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019, the entire edifice of the social security structure evolved through the ESIC collapses in a flash. I caused it to be made that way. And the bureaucrats did what I wanted. Funny, the way the legislations are drafted by the bureaucrats who do not care for the poor.

Mr. Wall: Hey, I do not know anything about the concept of ‘wages’ you talk of. But I got what I wanted for PPP, divestment of medical colleges, etc., The manner in which we could cause various words and phrases inserted at various places in the Code is amazing, even for me. The interesting part of it is that nobody can understand the depth of those innocuous-looking phrases and foresee the impact of our mischief. We are very clever. So, we could cheat the others easily. But one thing. We could do all that only because the legislation is about the poor working class about whom nobody cares. We cannot do such thing in a legislation that would affect the rich.

Mr. Suffer: Yes, of course! Poor should be cared for by the government only. When the government is not inclined to be so, who will care for them. None. Moreover, the rich who care only for themselves are able to dictate terms to the government. We do not see rich benefactors like Robert Owen or George Cadbury in the Indian scene. They evolved the social security structure in the international arena. But the ultra rich in India want to wreck the already established structure. What is more? They are able to get the law they want by paying the political parties through Electoral Bonds. The party in power gets about 92% of such corporate donations. Naturally the nation goes the way the rich want it.

Mr. Wall: You are right! The Indian society becomes less civilised with every such labour law passed by the government recently to exploit the labour in the manner in which the rich wanted to exploit them. Anyway, our concern is that we should make money and it is the rich who pay us. Why should we then bother about the poor?

Mr. Suffer: Why should we? The politicians in power want to get the votes of the poor but they do not bother about the poor. Why we should feel concerned about them, then?

Mr. Wall: Yes, Mr. Suffer! You are right! We have convinced the politicians in power that they should choose between ‘Production in Industry’ and ‘Protection for the labour class’. Both cannot go together, we told them. They believed our theory.

Mr. Suffer: Funny, these politicians in power do not know that only strong labour welfare measures can increase production. They do not want to see what is happening in the civilised countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Japan, etc., They are more interested in getting money for their political parties from the Corporates. So all of them are at the beck and call of the Corporates and are ready to work as their agents instead of protecting the large mass which constitute the working class.

Mr. Wall: Be happy about it! It suits us! Otherwise we will also have to do some real work that would be really beneficial to the society. We cannot live this kind of happy parasitical life otherwise. Our work helps the rich exploit the masses without limit. I am surprised how the bureaucrats have been helping us in playing so many tricks in preparing the Code on Social Security to provide no meaningful security to the working population.

Mr. Suffer: Yes, the bureaucrats did not even explain to the politicians in power the circumstances under which various terminlogies had been defined in the ESI Act the way they have been and their importance in the Indian context. We know that as Sir William Beveridge said, industry in a nation will flourish, only when there is “Willing participation of labour”. But in India, the politicians in power do not want to listen to reason. They want to live off the rich; the rich want to live off the poor. The only goal amont the rich is to become ultra rich, and feature themselves in the Forbes magazine.

Mr.Wall: That they can achieve only when the politicians in power help them to exploit the poor through ‘Forced labour”. (He pours some more liquor for himself and drinks).

Mr. Suffer: I am not able to come out of the dizzy feeling I had when all our efforts bore fruit in the form of the Bill on the Code on Social Security, 2019 (Bill. No.375 of 2019) which contained the definition of the term ‘employee’ in Clause under Clause 2 (26) and the term ‘Wages’ under Clause 2 (80) as we wanted it. Nobody is going to notice it. Hah hah haa. With these two definitions, the entire ESI structure gets demolished so silently. The private insurers will then have a field day. I am so happy. I feel as if I am in heaven.

Mr. Wall: I feel that I am in heaven too.

(Lord Yama Dharma Raja looks at Chitragupta with a smile. Chitragupta smiles in response. He knows the meaning of the smile of the Lord and understands what is in store for this duo when they appear in the Court of the Lord, later.)

Mr. Suffer: Yes, of course. We have done a brilliant work. It requires a lot of talent to do what we have done. Even if you keep the present ESI Act in tact and continue to provide 70% to 90% of wages as compensation, the questionable phrases that we have caused to be included in the definition of the term ‘Wages’ under Cl. 2 (80) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 would ensure that there is no meaningful social security net for the working population in India. What a marvellous work we have done! I admire at our own capability of deceit. And the bureaucrats, simply, fell for us. Oh, how easy to cheat the masses in India, with the help of the bureaucrats who do not care about their social responsibility under the Constitution!

Mr. Wall: Yes, yes! First of all, nobody cares for the poor; secondly, nobody knows where we have done what to undermine the social security system. Wah ! It is so easy to scuttle labour welfare measures in India.

Mr. Suffer: I admire myself ad infinitum. What a wonderful way in which I have caused insertion of the term “any overtime wages” in Clause 2 (80) and removed the same from Clause 2 (26) of the Bill concerned! Nobody knows the consequences of it. Because the overtime wages had been specified in Sec. 2 (9) of the ESI Act to be excluded for the purpose of coverage, but included for calculation of contribution payable on the wages defined under Sec. 2 (22) thereof. Its consequence has been phenomenally favourbale for the welfare of the labour, for the past 68 years. These terms have had a chequered history to protect the working population. But, we have reversed the relevant phraseologies in the present Bill on the Code on Social Security, in such a clever manner that it would be difficult for the people to understand the extent of the crime committed in drafting the Bill.

Mr. Wall: What would be the impact of such inclusions and exclusions?

Mr. Suffer: You see, the defintion of the term ‘wages’ as given in Sec. 2 (y) of the already promulgated Code on Wages, 2019 has been copied and pasted in Clause 2 (80) of the Bill on the Code on Social Security. The Code on Wages, 2019 replaced the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. The ESI Act had also been brought into existence only in 1948. But the term ‘wages’ had been defined differently in Sec. 2 (22) of the ESI Act. But now the bureaucrats did not care to examine why there was discrepancy between these two enactments while defining wages. They did not care either to analyse or even to record their observations in the Statement of Objects and Reasons accompanying the Bill on the Code on Social Security.

Mr. Wall: Why did the two Acts had two different definitions for the term ‘wages’?

Mr. Suffer: The very purposes of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 and the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 were totally different. The former was intended to ensure that the working population got, at least, a certain minimum amount as wages and to prevent the employer from including many variable components of remuneration paid by him to the workers and showing them also as part of the said minimum wages. The latter was to ensure that the employer brought within the purview of social security provided by the State more employees by excluding many variable components so that the cash benefit that he would receive in the event of sickness or other contingencies would be attractive and substantial with reference to the total emoluments that he receives from his employer in whatever form, so that he would be able to maintain a reasonable standard of living during the periods of such unforeseen contingencies. For example, an employee who earns a sum of Rs. 20000 pm as wages now, would get about Rs. 14000 pm as Sickness Benefit, Rs. 16000 as Extended Sickness Benefit and Rs. 18000 as Total Disablement Benefit. This is the position as on date.

Mr. Wall: I understand now. It seems that the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 was for excluding many variable components of remuneration paid by the employer to identify the ‘wages’ while the ESI Act, 1948 was for adding many variable components of remuneration to the ‘wages’ paid otherwise. The definition in Sec. 2 (h) of the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 ensured not only a specific minimum as wages payable to the working population but also prevented the employer, through the ‘Exclusion Clause’ in the said Sec. 2 (h), from citing those extra allowances or payments as part of the said minimum wages.

Mr. Suffer: Yes. The goal of the Minimum Wages Act was to put at least a minimum money in the pocket of the worker while the goal of the ESI Act was to provide maximum possible cash benefit by the Government to enable the worker to meet the contingencies. There cannot, therefore, be one and the same definition of the term ‘wages’ for both enactments.

Mr. Wall: True. Both these enactments came into force immediately on the wake of independence and they came along with the another important labour welfare legislation, the Factories Act, 1948. The desire of the leaders of modern India, then, was not to allow exploitation of labour even after the independence of the nation. That was the precise reason for enacting all these legislations, on priority basis on attaining independence. It had been made clear in the Statements of Object and Reasons of all these three enactments, in the year 1948, that they were intended for the welfare of the working population.

Mr. Suffer: The definition of the term ‘wages’ in Sec. 2 (22) of the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 read with the definition of the term ‘employee’ in Sec. 2 (9) of the said Act, (which specifically excluded over time allowance to decide the coverage of the insured person) ensured that the employee was not denied coverage because of variable components of remuneration but was given substantial amount as cash benefit (by taking into account many variable components of remuneration also as wages) and was thus enabled to maintain a reasonable standard of life even when he was affected by certain contingencies like Sickness, Disablement due to Employment Injury, etc.,

Mr. Wall: Yes, I got it. If the employee who draws total wages of Rs. 20000 is shown by the employer to have received only Rs. 7000 as wages and the remaining Rs. 13000 as extra allowances which have not been classified as Wages, as per Cl. 2 (80) of the Bill on the Code on Social Security, he would get only Rs. 4900 pm as Sickness Benefit, Rs. 5600 as Extended Sickness Benefit and Rs. 6300 as Total Disablement Benefit. As one who maintained his standard of life at Rs. 20000 pm, it would become very hard to him to maintain a reasonable standard at Rs. 4900 pm in the event of even ordinary sickness. It is essential in the context to know that the tendency of the employers to cheat and evade both his employees and the ESI Corporation has been real as borne out by the judgments of the courts of law in thousands of cases. A law-maker cannot just presume to the contrary and put the lives of the working masses at the mercy of the employers, going back once again to the pre-1948 era.

Mr. Suffer: Very funny, indeed. The bureaucrats do have neither the understanding of the concept of social security nor any understating of the consequences. That was why the draftsman had simply inserted in Cl. 2 (80) of the Bill on the Code on Social Security the entire definition of the term Wages as given in Sec. 2 (y) of the Code on Wages, 2019, as it is.

Mr. Wall: It is not only that. They do not even know why the merger of the ESIC and the EPFO could not take place for the past 40 years, in spite of various studies undertaken by them. That merger could not materialise only because the term ‘Wages’ for the purpose of compliance and contribution, could not be given a common definition to answer the purpose of both the ESI Act, 1948 and the EPF Act, 1952.

Mr. Suffer: Exactly. If only the present Bill on the Code on
Social Security, 2019 with its Cl. 2 (80) as it is becomes law, it will be a death-knell for the entire concept of social security in India. Our nation will go down even lower in the list of civilised nations, because Social Security provided by the government has been recognised world-wide as the symbol of civilisation. This Code will make the cash benefits payable to the beneficiaries (insured persons or their dependant family members) totally unattractive with reference to the real wages earned by the insured person.

Mr. Wall: Yes, you are right. That benefit will not be useful to the workers in any real sense, unless contribution is made payable by the employer on all items of wages paid by them, as per the existing definition under Sec. 2 (22) of the present ESI Act. There would be no real Social Security to the working population. There would be no real “State Insurance” although Chaper IV of the Code on the Social Security, 2019, proclaims to the public that there would be an “Employees’ State Insurance Corporation”.

Mr. Suffer: Hey, that is not our botheration. Let us celebrate our victory in our mission to destabilise the social security system of the nation. We are not Mahatma Gandhi. I wonder whether he would have fought for independence if only he had known that people like us would be roaming around in the independent India manipulating the bureaucrats to our will, which is in fact the will of our pay-masters, the ultra and greedy rich.

Mr. Wall:  I understand. I find that there is no way for the nation to extricate itself from the web woven by you to destroy the social security system. Am I correct?

Mr. Suffer: True. As things stand,  the enemies of the working population, the ultra-rich who have already cornered more than 75% of the national resources  are commanding the politicians in power and demanding the laws they want in the manner in which they want them. It is as per their desires, I have woven a spider-net to trap and destroy the organisation which provides proper security-net to the working population. Yet, the social security system can be retrieved from the hands of these ultra rich, if the  Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour directs the bureaucrats to have a relook at the Cl. 2 (80) of the Bill on the Code on Social Security, 2019 (Bill No. 375 of 2019) and to delete the following from the definition therein for the term ‘wages’:

    1. The phrase ‘any conveyance allowance or” appearing in the Exclusion Clause (d) of the definition has to be deleted;
    2. The phrase ‘house rent allowance” appearing in the Exclusion Clause (f) of the definition has to be deleted;
    3. The phrase ‘any overtime allowance” appearing in the Exclusion Clause (h) of the definition has to be deleted;
    4. The phrase ‘any commission payable to the employee” appearing in the Exclusion Clause (i) of the definition has to be deleted;
    5. The first proviso should be totally deleted as it does not have relevance in a social security enactment. In other words, this proviso starting with the phrase “provided that for calculating” and ending with the phrase “added in wages under this clause” requires to be deleted in toto.

Mr. Wall: (After remaining silent for some time) Hey, Mr. Suffer! C’mon, let us go home. You have drunk too much. Your eyes are red.

Mr. Suffer: Yeah, yours are red too. (He tries to make a move reclining himself on the shoulders of Mr. Wall)

Mr. Wall: No. Yours are redder. Redder, much more.

(Lord Yama Dharma Raja looks at Chitragupta and nods at him to move on. Chitragupta notices that the eyes of the Lord are red.)

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Innocent MPs Vs. Wily bureaucrats – Episode 3

Excerpts from the letter sent to the authorities on the unlawful and unwarranted inclusion of the phrase “Nursing and Para-medical” and the word “Gazetted” in Clause 24 (8) of the Code on Social Security, 2019 (Bill No. 375 of 2019) without any explanation for it anywhere in the Bill.

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2. I submit that although the aforesaid Clause 24 (8) has been modelled on the existing Sec. 17 (3) of the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948, the inclusion of (1) the phrase “Nursing and Para-medical” and (2) the word “Gazetted” therein is unwarranted either by operation of any law or because of any practical problem which could arise in the enforcement of the existing law. The simple fact is that this proposition   under Clause 24 (8) is purely unwarranted and has not been made keeping public interest in view.  There had been no in-depth study for making such a modification in the existing procedure permitted in the  ESI Act. The proposition made, now,  through the Clause 24 (8) of the Code on Social Security is arbitrary and hence unlawul.

3. The original ESI Act did not exempt even the medical posts. All appointments to posts corresponding to Class I and Class II posts under the Central Government were required to be made only in consultation with the Union Public Service Commission. The then Sec. 17 (3), i.e., the provision that was in force upto 26.01.1985, read as under:

“Every appointment to posts corresponding to Class I and Class II posts under the Central Government shall be made in consultation with the Union Public Service Commission”

4. As the classification of the posts based on Class was changed as a matter of policy by the Central Government, the subsequent amendment of 1984 reflected that policy decision and the amended provision which came into effect from 27.01.1985 read as under:

“Every appointment to posts corresponding to group A and group B posts under the Central Government shall be made in consultation with the Union Public Service Commission”.

5. The provisions of Sec. 17 (3) of the ESI Act, as quoted supra, were in accordance with the Art. 320 (3) (a) of the Constitution of India read with the Proviso thereto and the provisions in the UPSC (EFC) Regulations, 1958 (As amended).

Unwarranted amendment in 1989 and later regrets:

6. It was only in the year 1988 that a very big lobby that had been canvassing for a long time for exempting the medical posts from the purview of the UPSC, succeeded in its venture, for reasons which were specious. The UPSC had also accepted the proposal for it. The resultant amendment of 1989 saw the said Sec. 17 (3) of the ESI Act modified as under:

“Every appointment to posts (other than medical posts) corresponding to group A and group B posts under the Central Government shall be made in consultation with the Union Public Service Commission”.

It was later found that the reasons recorded earlier for amending the Sec. 17 (3) thus, to exempt the medical posts from the purview of the UPSC, were improper and wrong and the amendment unnecessary. The then Director General regretted later the amendment of 1989. There had been various unwarranted pressure on the honest Director Generals thereafter.

Unwarranted amendment in 2009 and later regrets:

7. Similar misadventure was there, again, twenty years later, in 2009. That was about the establishment and running of medical colleges by the ESI Corporation. And a Bill (Bill No 66-C of 2009) was tabled on the Lok Sabha to amend, inter alia, Sec. 59-B in the ESI Act to pave way for establishing such medical colleges by the ESI Corporation. A strong lobby, had been canvassing from the year 2007 onwards, through the Standing Committee and the ESI Corporation, for constructing large number of medical colleges. But after frittering away thousands of crores of the fund of the organisation, the same bodies recorded their regret, in the year 2015, and confessed that the ESI Corporation did not have core competency and that the objective of Sec. 59-B was unlikely to be met. The Minutes of the meeting of the Corporation on 05.01.2015 would testify to this fact. The ESIC was gifting away, subsequently, the mammoth buildings constructed at a huge cost to State Governments.

8. Taking wrong decisions first, making herculean efforts to amend the Act by informing, misinforming and disinforming the Parliament, and then regretting the decision after realising the wrongs committed earlier did not remain a one-time phenomenon. It has become a recurring feature as could be seen from the contents of the present Bill No. 375 of 2019 in the Lok Sabha.

Unwarranted meddling, again, in 2019:

9.  Now, ten years later, in 2019, another attempt has been made to yield to another lobby. The proposition for the inclusion of the phrase “Nursing and Para-medical” and the word “Gazetted” therein has no legitimate justification at all. It is the indicator of yielding to such a lobby. And the regrets will be coming later. This is not only in violations of the provisions in the UPSC (EFC) Regulations, 1958 (as amended up to 07.10.2009) but also not necessary, in public interest.

10. I, therefore, submit that it is only right and proper to take action at least at this stage to prevent such a defective Clause from becoming law by deleting the said word and phrase from the proposed Clause 24 (8) of the Code on Social Security, 2019,  and, consequently,  take  action to prepare the said Clause identically on the lines of the existing Sec. 17 (3) of the ESI Act, 1948.

11. It is a fact that the Bill No. 375 of 2019 does not explain how and why the phrase “Nursing and Para-medical” and the word “Gazetted” have been added all of a sudden in Clause 24 (8) of the Code on Social Security, 2019 without explaining the need for it, either in the ‘Statement of Objects and  Reasons’ or even in the ‘Note on Clauses’.

12. The ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ is totally silent on this issue. The ‘Note on Clauses’ contain only a laconic observation that “Clause 24 of the Bill seeks to provide appointment of Principal Officers and other staff of the Corporation”. It is very clear that the Legislature is just ill-treated by the Executive.

UPSC (EFC) Regulations violated by the ESIC:

13. It is essential for the Executive to convince the Legislature about the necessity that had arisen, from the perspective of the Executive, to make such additions. But the Executive has deliberately omitted doing so, in the matter of including the Nursing and Para-medical staff in the said Clause 24 (8). The bureaucrats have inserted these additions silently and without inviting the particular attention of the legislators for such an addition, especially when the Recruitment Regulations for the post of Nurses have been amended only in July 2019, in accordance with the law on the subject and, accordingly, conceding the role of the UPSC in the matter of appointment and promotion of Nurses in Group B and A.

14. In fact, the proposal for such an amendment was sent by the ESI Corporation, after inviting comments from the stakeholders two years ago, on 04.05.2017, and the UPSC, has given its concurrence to those amendments as per its letter F. No. 3/12 (8) /2019 – RR dated 05.07.2019 and has, thereby, assumed jurisdiction over the appointment and promotion of Nursing personnel in the ESI Corporation. The salient features of those amendments were:

a. The posts in the Nursing cadre were re-designated and re-classified as Nursing Officer ( Group B ), Senior Nursing Officer (Group B) and Assistant Nursing Superintendent (Group A).

b. The recruitment process in respect of all these posts would go to the UPSC.

c. The DPC meeting would be conducted by the UPSC and a member of the UPSC would be the Chairman of the DPC.

15. When all these actions are facts on record, there should be convincing reason advanced by the ESIC in the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ and the ‘Notes on Clauses’ accompanying the Bill No. 375 of 2019, for deliberately violating the provisions of the UPSC (EFC) Regulations, 1958 and trying to usurp the powers of the UPSC. But the Bill concerned is totally silent on the issue.

Legislative Policy, a pre-requisite for Legislative Drafting, kept secret:

16. The Parliamentarians are entitled to know who made what changes in this Clause and who advised whom to insert the phrase “Nursing and Para-medical” and the word “Gazetted” in the Clause 24 (8) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019. The desire of the bureaucracy to keep this information secret is unlawful and impermissible. The legislature should always be, invariably, informed of the specific reasons behind the deletion of existing words and phrases and insertion of these new words and phrases in the already existing provisions. The legislative policy behind such a proposition should be made known to the Legislature beforehand. That has not been done in this case.

17. The procedure of drafting legislations require the rulers to entrust the Drafting Team with the ‘legislative policy’. Mr. Justice. M. Jagannadha Rao, Chairman of the 17th Law Commission of India, has written a paper on Legislative Drafting. He says, “The draftsman is not the author of the legislative policy, he merely tries to transform the legislative policy into words. The legislative policy is made by the political executive which belongs to the political party which is ruling the legislature or by the monarch who reigns over the country. The draftsman must, therefore, digest the legislative policy fully before he produces the instrument of legislation which can achieve the legislative purpose”. The issue here, with the impugned Code, is why the Executive has not made the concerned ‘legislative policy’ also known not only to the public but even to the Legislature. The Executive has not informed the Legislature about the direction in which the draftsman was advised to make a move, while drafting the Bill No. 375 of 2019. And that is unlawful.

The strange insertion of the word ‘Gazetted’:

18. It is submitted that the word ‘Gazetted’ inserted in Cl. 24 (6) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 restricts the jurisdiction of the UPSC in respect of Groups B posts, which jurisdiction is now available under the existing Sec. 17 (3) of the ESI Act. The proposed law is that “Every appointment to posts..….corresponding to group A and group B Gazetted posts under the Central Government shall be made in consultation with the Union Public Service Commission”. This inclusion of the word ‘Gazetted’ in Clause 24 (8) in the Bill concerned is not at all necessary when the UPSC had already assumed jurisdiction over all the Group B Non-Gazetted posts also, in the Stenographic cadre as well as in the Nursing cadre. Moreover, no explanation to justify such an inclusion has been given either in the “Statement of Objects and Reasons” or in the “Notes on Clauses” accompanying the Bill. The draftsman did not think it necessary to adduce reasons and convince the law-makers for such an inclusion. His action and inaction are improper and unlawful and is a serious misconduct.

Inaction of the Ministry of Law:

19. Moreover, it is shocking that the Legislative wing of the Ministry of Law & Justice had not considered it necessary to probe into the legality or otherwise of this kind of silent insertion of the phrase “Nursing and Para-medical” in the Bill No. 375 of 2019, especially when the legislation, the Code on Social Security, 2019 is not a new one but one intended only to replace the ESI Act, 1948 and 8 others. Besides, the Ministry of Law ought to have made the Ministry of Labour & Employment explain its stand, about the absence of explanations to such commissions and omissions in the ‘Note on Clauses’ and the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ which accompanied the Bill.

Observations of the Apex Court:

20. It is submitted that the Clause 24 (8) of the Code on Social Security, 2019 deals with the policy pertaining to public employment. Such an important policy cannot be evolved without there being a transparent legislative policy. It is only when the Bill in question is compared with the aforesaid legislative policy, one would be able to know whether the draftsman had performed his role right or had made such commissions and omissions in the draft Code to sabotage the policy.

21. It would be appropriate to recall in the context what the Hon’ble Apex Court had said, in Ramana Dayaram Shetty vs. The International Airport Authority of India and others (04.05.1979). Drawing support from the proposition laid down in M/s. Erusian Equipment and Chemicals Ltd, Hon’ble Supreme Court had observed as under: “This proposition would hold good in all cases of dealing by the Government with the public, where the interest sought to be protected is a privilege. It must, therefore, be taken to be the law that where the Government is dealing with the public, whether by way of giving jobs or …., the Government cannot act arbitrarily at its sweet will and, like a private individual, deal with any person it pleases, but its action must be in conformity with standard or norm which is not arbitrary, irrational or irrelevant.”

Prayer

22. The phrase “Nursing and Para-medical” and the word ‘Gazetted’  inserted in the Clause 24 (8) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 would adversely affect the chances of employment of the aspiring candidates of the nation in the ESI Corporation, if and when the Bill becomes law, without proper modifications. It is unnecessary and totally unwarranted to take the jurisdiction of the UPSC away from the Group B posts in the ESIC. It is not in public interest too.

23. I, therefore, request you to kindly re-examine the issue and set things right in the interest of the nation.

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Innocent MPs Vs. Wily Bureaucrats – Episode 2

To
1. Hon’ble Speaker,
House of the People (Lok Sabha),
17, Parliament House,
New Delhi 110011

2. Mr. Bhartruhan Mahtab,
Hon’ble M.P. & Chairman,
Standing Committee of Parliament on Labour,
South Block,
New Delhi – 110011

(Through Mr. Kulvinder Singh, Deputy Secretary, Parliament of India,
House of the People. Email: comm.labour-lss@sansad.nic.in)

Sub: Appointment of Consultants and Specialists in ESI Corporation – – insertion of Second Proviso to Clause 24 (7) (a) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 – legislative process – bureaucrats continue to cheat the Parliament – representation – submitted.

Ref: 1. Bill No. 66-C of 2009 placed before the Lower House of the Parliament as The ESI (Amendment) Bill, 2009 on 30.07.2009.
2. Report dated 09.12.2009 of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour.
3. Record (Minutes) of the proceedings of the Lok Sabha on 03.05.2010.
4. Bill No. 66-C of 2009 as passed by the House of the People on 03.05.2010 titled The ESI (Amendment) Bill, 2010.
5. CAG Report No. 40 of 2015 on Special Audit of Medical Education Projects in the ESI Corporation.
6. Draft Code on Social Security circulated in the MOL&E Circular No. Z-13025/13/2015-LRC dated 17.09.2019.
7. The Code on Social Security, 2019, placed as Bill No. 375 of 2019 before the House of the People (Lok Sabha).

Sir,

1. I submit this representation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour (hereinafter referred to as the PSCL) with a request to kindly examine in depth the Second Proviso to Clause No. 24 (7) (a) of the Bill on The Code on Social Security, 2019 (Bill No. 375 of 2019 of the Lok Sabha) which has been worded in a nebulous and ambiguous manner.

2. This Clause is shown to have been included for the purpose of appointing Specialists and Consultants in the ESIC Hospitals for better delivery of Super Speciality Services. But this clause which is the exact reproduction of the Second Proviso to the Sec. 17 (2) (a) of the ESI Act, 1948 did not serve that purpose. In fact the Second Proviso to the Sec. 17 (2) (a) of the ESI Act, 1948, was inserted in the ESI Act, ten years ago, with ulterior motive, through an amendment vide Bill No. 66-C of 2009 of the Lok Sabha, and it had been the cause of various scandals unearthed later by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and some of them recorded in Para 2.3, Para 2.4 and Para 2.5 of his Report No. 40 of 2015 (Page 8 to 12 – Special Audit of Medical Education Projects).

3. I submit that such scandals became possible because of (a) the insertion of that provision as Second Proviso to Sec. 17 (2) (a) of the ESI Act, 1948, instead of its appropriate place as the Second Proviso to Sec. 17 (3) of the said Act and (b) the absence of insertion of definition to the terms ‘Specialists’ and ‘Consultants’ in the ESI Act along with the aforesaid amendment.

4. I therefore submit that the present Cl. 24 (7) (a) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019, as it is at present, would definitely become the cause of further abuse as had happened in the past decade in the ESI Corporation, unless the PSCL inquires the authorities of the facts behind it and causes modification of it. What is required to be done is to insert this Clause in its appropriate place below the Cl. 24 (8) of the Bil No. 375 of 2019 and to incorporate, in the Bill itself, the definitions for the terms ‘Specialists’ and ‘Consultants’. I, therefore, request that the Committee may kindly bestow more attention for evaluating this provision, in the light of facts submitted in this representation and the Appendices.

5. The Second Proviso to the Clause No. 24 (7) (a) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 which is, now, under the scrutiny of the PSCL at present reads as under:

“Provided further that this sub-section shall not apply to appointment of consultants and specialists in various fields appointed on contract basis.”

6. The second proviso to the Clause 5 of the Bill No. 66-C of 2009, introduced ten years ago to make amendment to Sec. 17 (2) (a) of the ESI Act,1948, which was scrutinized by the then PSCL, read as under:

“Provided further that this sub-section shall not apply to appointment of consultants and specialists in various fields appointed on contract basis.”

7. The PSCL had examined this provision in depth then and did not approve it the way it approved many of the other genuine provisions in the Bill No. 66-C of 2009. Yet the procedure had been manipulated, the observations of the PSCL overlooked and the defective Clause 5 of the Bill became law on 03.05.2010 enabling the persons in power to indulge in various scandals.

8. I submit that this Clause, which had been inserted in through the Bill No. 66-C of 2009, was not an innocuous provision. It was inserted in a pre-meditated manner with a view to indulge in various scandals. Instead of placing it as the second proviso to Sec. 17 (3) of the ESI Act, the bureaucrats connived to insert it as the second proviso to Sec. 17 (2) (a) of the ESI Act. (Please see Appendix B). Their apparent intention was (i) to appoint anyone as Specialist or Consultant for any non-medical purpose, (ii) to ignore the proper method of recruitment, (iii) to pay such an appointee extraordinary remuneration without any guideline being anywhere and (iv) to keep those appointees beyond the pale of all kinds of disciplinary provisions. I request that this provision need not again be made a part of law through the proposed Code on Social Security, 2019 vide the Bill No. 375 of 2019 which is now under the effective consideration of the PSCL.

Appendix B

9. It is essential for the PSCL to know the fact that when the Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, suspected the bona fides of the provision in the Bill No. 66-C of 2019 and came forward with valid suggestion during the meeting of the Committee of Secretaries held on 06.01.2009 to prevent the abuse of this provision, the Director General, ESI Corporation chipped in and clarified that it was only an enabling provision and that the rules would be framed later. His defence was endorsed by the Cabinet Secretary who was present in the meeting and observed that the issue might be examined “at the time of framing of rules.” But it is a pity that the promises of the Director General of the ESI Corporation and the Cabinet Secretary were not kept. Consequently, no rules under the provisions of Subordinate Legislation have ever been framed regarding the appointment of Specialists and Consultants till date, although many had been appointed through questionable means in the organization leading to the objection by the CAG too.

10. I, therefore, request that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour may be pleased

a. to dispense with this provision altogether and direct the ESI Corporation to follow the procedure adopted in the AIIMS, JIPMER, etc., for appointment of Specialists and Consultants in medical fields, or

b. to advise the authorities concerned to formulate the provision properly to enable them to appoint only the Specialists and Consultants with medical qualifications to meet the requirement of the ESI Corporation in providing super speciality medical benefit to the ailing beneficiaries in the ESIC run medical institutions;

c. to advise the authorities to incorporate suitable definition for the terms ‘Specialists’ and ‘Consultants’ under Clause 2 of the Bill under consideration; and

d. to shift this impugned proviso from the present position as the Second Proviso to Clause 24 (7) (a) of the Bill on the Code on Social Security, 2019 ( Bill No. 375 of 2019) and to insert the same as the Second Proviso to Clause 24 (8) of the said Bill to prevent abuse of the provision once again by making extraordinary payments to the people who are appointed as Specialists and Consultants. (Please see Appendix C)

11. I submit herewith a Write-up containing the relevant details pertaining to the abuse of law-making-process in the year 2009 and 2010 to insert the Second Proviso under Sec. 17 (2) (a) of the ESI Act. I believe that the PSCL may find the precedent and the details thereof useful to arrive at a decision, as deemed fit, on the unwarranted Proviso which has been inserted as Clause No. 24 (7) (a) of the Bill,

Yours faithfully,

Encl: Appendices A, B & C.

Appendix C

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Innocent MPs Vs. Wily bureaucrats !

Hon’ble Supreme Court has, in Vasantlal Maganbhai Sanjanwala Vs. The State of Bombay and others on 25.08.1960 referred, in a different context,  to the possibility of legislature,  “controlled by a powerful executive”. That possibility is proved to have become a reality in India as demonstrated by the wily bureaucrats when it came to the amendment of Labour laws, especially the Bill No. 66-C of 2009 and the Bill No.375  of 2019.

The manner in which the Cl. 40 (9) had been inserted in the Bill on The Code on Social Security, 2019, (Bill No. 375 of 2019) pending in the House of the People (Lok Sabha) shows how wily the bureaucrats could be, again and again. Identical Clause was introduced in the Bill No. 66-C of 2009 to amend the ESI Act, 1948.

But the then Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour  (PSCL) rejected that provision categorically assigning strong reasons. Yet without being aware of the said observations of the PSCL, the provision was made to become law during a pademonium without discussion on 03.05.2010.

Now the Bill No. 375 of 2019 containing the same provision is before the present PSCL. Attempt is made to apprise the PSCL of the history of the case to save the social security structure from being corroded further.

Copy of the letter dated 14.05.2020 sent to the Hon’ble Speaker, House of the People is reproduced hereunder:

======================================================

To

1 Hon’ble Speaker,
House of the People (Lok Sabha),
17, Parliament House,
New Delhi 110011
2 Mr. Bhartruhan Mahtab,
Hon’ble M.P. & Chairman,
Standing Committee of Parliament on Labour,
South Block,
New Delhi – 110011.

(Through Mr. Kulvinder Singh, Deputy Secretary, Parliament of India,House of the People. Email: comm.labour-lss@sansad.nic.in)

Sub: Third party participation in running the ESIC hospitals and medical institutions – insertion of Sec. 59 (3) of the ESI Act, 1948 in the year 2010 – Clause 40 (9 ) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 – bureaucracy deceiving the Parliament – Representation – submitted.
Ref: 1.  Bill No. 66-C of 2009 placed before the Lower House of the Parliament as The ESI (Amendment) Bill, 2009 on 30.07.2009.
2.  Report dated 09.12.2009 of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour.
3.  Record (Minutes) of the proceedings of the Lok Sabha on 03.05.2010.
4.  Bill No. 66-C of 2009 as passed by the House of the People on 03.05.2010 titled The ESI (Amendment) Bill, 2010.
5.  Hqrs. Letter No. U-11/14/1/20-15-Med.I (ICU) dated 20.04.2018 addressed to M/s Sheel Nursing Home Pvt Ltd, Uttar Pradesh.
6.  Draft Code on Social Security circulated in the MOL&E Circular No. Z-13025/13/2015-LRC dated 17.09.2019.
7.  The Code on Social Security, 2019, placed as Bill No. 375 of 2019 before the House of the People (Lok Sabha).

Sir,

I submit that Hon’ble Supreme Court has, in Vasantlal Maganbhai Sanjanwala Vs. The State of Bombay and others on 25.08.1960 referred, in a different context,  to the possibility of legislature,  “controlled by a powerful executive”. That possibility is proved to have become a reality in India as demonstrated by the bureaucrats, again and again, when it came to the amendment of Labour Laws, especially the Bill No. 66-C of 2009 and the Bill No.375  of 2019, as explained below. In the context, I consider it necessary to invite your kind attention to Clause 40 (9) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 which is under the consideration and scrutiny of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour at present. The said Clause reads as under:

“The Corporation may also enter into agreement with any local authority, local body or private body for commissioning and running Employees’ State Insurance hospitals through third party participation for providing medical treatment and attendance to insured persons and (where such medical benefit has been extended to their families), to their families.”

2. Identical is the provision under Sec. 59 (3) of the ESI Act, which was inserted through the amendment of the year 2010, vide Bill No. 66-C of 2009:

Sec 59 2 Bill Text

3. I submit that this provision, i.e., the Sec. 59 (3) of the ESI Act which is in force as on date and the proposed Cl. 40 (9) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019, enable Third Party participation in commissioning and running the ESI hospitals and providing medical treatment and attendance to insurance persons and their families.

4. When the above  provision was proposed  to be inserted in the ESI Act in 2009, as Sec. 59 (3), vide Clause No. 14 of the Bill No. 66-C of 2019 introduced in the Lok Sabha, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour had examined the issue rejected the proposal outright as could be from Para 113 of its Report presented to  the Lok Sabha on 09.12.2009. The Committee did not permit making such an enabling provision in the Bill for commissioning and running these hospitals through third party participation Para 113 said,

“113. The Committee note the proposal of the Government for making a provision for commissioning and running of ESI hospitals through third party participation. The Committee find that ESIC has the required capacity and wherewithal to run hospitals on their own since Government have taken a decision that all new hospitals would be run by ESIC directly. The Committee, do not find any justification in, and therefore outright reject, the contention of the Government that ‘some of the hospitals constructed on the request, and not taken over by the concerned State Governments may be commissioned through third party participation’. The Committee take note of the reply of the Government that there were only three hospitals which had not been taken over by the State Government and out of these three, one, at Chinchwad, had already been commissioned by the ESIC directly and already handed over to the State Government. Another hospital at Bibvewadi has also been commissioned by the State Government. Therefore, the Committee feel that there is no justification on the part of the Government for making such an enabling provision in the Bill for commissioning and running these hospitals through third party participation”.

Para 113 page 70 PSC report

Page 71 of the PSC report

5. Yet, those observations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour had not been taken to the notice of the Members of the Lok Sabha on 03.05.2010 in an appropriate manner that would make them pay attention to the differing views of the Standing Committee. Consequently, the original Clause 14 in the Bill No. 66 of 2009 was made to become law in the form of Sec.59 (3) of the ESI Act. That provision was, thus, the outcome of an unlawful and unjust and undemocratic law-making-process.

6. It becomes clear, from the Minutes of the Parliamentary Proceedings, that the authorities did not want to care for the well-considered  observations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and had, therefore, omitted any reference to the abovementioned observation of the Committee in Para 113 of its report. That was why even the already prepared speech of the Hon’ble Minister did not contain any reference, at all, to the Para 113 of the Report containing the objection of the Parliamentary Standing Committee to Clause 14 which was to become Sec. 59 (3) in the Act, later.

7. Besides, the Bill got passed by the Lok Sabha within a time span of nine minutes between 1420 hours and 1429 hours on that day, the 3rd May 2010, when the issue pertaining to Sibu Soren was creating a pandemonium in the House without allowing any meaningful discussion. Significantly, the Hon’ble Minister did not, actually, deliver, in the house, that portion of the speech which is available in Pages 60, 61 & 62 of the Minutes dated 03.05.2010 but had just laid it on the table on the advice of the Hon’ble Deputy Speaker, as could be seen from the live telecast that day.

8. The fact, in essence, is that the Parliament of India had not consciously approved the amendment for and before inserting the aforesaid Sec. 59 (3) in the ESI Act, 1948. It did not examine the observations of the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour dated 09.12.2009. The Legislature had been tricked on 03.05.2010 by the Executive, whose intention was only to observe the formality of getting the Bill declared by the Speaker as passed on the floor of the Lok Sabha. The Executive had not been sincere and honest in giving right and complete information to the Legislature on this issue before asking for its approval.

9. The Executive had, with mala fide intention, placed the Clause 14 of the original Bill No. 66 of 2009, in its original form itself before the Parliament, even after the Parliamentary Standing Committee had objected to the said draft proposal in Para 113 of its Report. It is not the ‘end’ result but the ‘means’ adopted by the Executive to achieve that ‘end’ which makes the said Sec. 59 (3) vulnerable and amenable to judicial scrutiny.

10. While Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, it cannot just ignore the findings of the latter. Parliament has to apply its mind to the observations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and record that it was differing from the stand of the said Committee. But in this case the Lok Sabha had simply been oblivious of the vital observations of the Standing Committee in Para 1134 of its report. The Executive did not make any efforts to draw the particular attention of the Parliamentarians to the stand of the Standing Committee to the then proposed Sec. 59 (3) of the ESI Act.

11. What is shocking all the more is that the same provision appeared as follows as Cl. 43 (9) in the draft circulated on 17.09.2019 and withdrawn in the first week of October 2019, at the behest of the PMO to rejig the draft.  The present Cl. 40(9) in the Bill on the Code on Social Security, 2019, (Bill No. 375 of 2019) is the identical replica of the same provision, as quoted in Para 1 supra. This Bill has also been referred now to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour without informing that Committee that the same issue had been examined by the earlier Parliamentary Standing Committee and had been rejected by it. The Executive has thus been consistently playing tricks with the Parliamentarians and cheat them as a matter of routine by suppressing facts from the knowledge of the Parliamentarians.

12. I, therefore, request that the members of the present Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour may be informed,specifically, of the contents of Para 113 of the of the Report presented to the Lok Sabha on 09.12.2009 by the earlier Committee, so that the present Committee concerned could take an informed decision.

13. It would also be appropriate for the present Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour to delve a little deeper into the manner in which various instances had taken place during the last decade through that Sec. 59 (3) of the ESI Act, 1948, especially those involving the agency called M/s Sheel Nursing Home Pvt Ltd referred to in the Hqrs. letter dated 20.04.2018, before and for taking decision on the Clause No. 40 (9) of the Bill on Social Security Code, 2019, which is now under the consideration of the said Committee.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,

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Complaint to the NHRC: Social Security Bill violates human rights!

30.04.2020

To
The Chairman,
National Human Rights Commission,
Manav Adhikar Bhawan, 
C-Block, GPO Complex,
INA, New Delhi 110023.

Sub: Code on Social Security Code, 2019– no assurance for continuation of the existing benefits provided under the ESI Act at present – violation of fundamental human rights –provisions of distributive justice – ignored – complaint – lodged. 
Ref: 
  1. Circular No. Z – 13025/13/ 2015 – LRC dated 16.03.2017 of the Ministry of Labour, Government of India.
  2. Circular No. Z – 13025/13/2015-LRC dated 01.03.2018 of the Ministry of Labour, Government of India.
  3. Circular No. Z – 13025/13/2015-LRC dated 17.09.2019 of the Ministry of Labour, Government of India.
  4. The Code on Social Security, 2019 placed as Bill No. 375 of 2019 before the House of the People (Lok Sabha).

Sir, 

1. I submit that I am constrained to file this complaint, as the officials of the Ministry of Labour, Government of India, have been constantly making attempts, for the past three years,  to reduce, in one way or the other, the benefits enjoyed by the working population of India, under the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘ESI Act’), which enactment gives effect to Art. 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.  The first attempt at such reduction was made by those officials in the Ministry of Labour, in the year 2017, when they put the  Draft “Labour Code on Social Security & Welfare, 2017” in public domain on 16.03.2017 inviting “comments/suggestions” of the stakeholders, “as a part of pre-legislative consultative process”. Clauses 53 – 87 of this Draft Code showed very explicitly that the intention of the officials of the Ministry of Labour was to reduce the benefits made available to the working population covered under the ESI Act. 

2. Some such reductions, as given below, are illustrative of the mala fide intention of the officials who drafted the Code or those who prepared the Drafting Policy for preparing such a Code, in the year 2017:                       

  • When the ESI Act provided for payment of about 90% of the wages of an employee to his dependant family as “Dependants Benefit” in the event of death of that employee due to employment injury,  the draft Labour Code reduced it to 50% only. 
  • When the  ESI Act provided for payment of about 80% of the wages to the insured person for about 730 days, if he suffered from 34 long term sickness besides providing him and  his family members with medical benefit for 3 years, the Draft Code did away with the provisions of the Extended Sickness Benefit altogether. 
  • When the ESIC provided for payment of about 70% of the wages as Sickness Benefit for 91 days in two consequent contribution periods, the Draft Code maintained total silence about the period and quantum of Sickness benefits and left it to the bureaucrats to decide it later,  through Subordinate Legislation.
  • The Permanent Disablement Benefit was reduced to 60% and Temporary Disablement Benefit to 50% of wages, in the Code, when they are paid as per the ESI Act, at the rate of 80% of the wages of the employee. 
  • When ESIC provided an attractive unemployment allowance of about 50% of wages for 12 months, Cl. 24 (5) (i) of the Draft Code did not provide for any such benefit and maintained total silence. 
  • The Draft Code did not also have any provision analogous to Reg. 103 (B) (2) to enable a retired insured person and his spouse to have medical cover forever on payment of Rs. 120 per year, on certain conditions. 
  • The Draft Code totally ignored Reg. 103-B (1) of the ESI Act, that enabled the Permanently Disabled Persons to get medical benefit until his superannuation for him and his wife.

In addition to the aforesaid issues connected with the benefit provisions of the ESI Act, the very method of drafting the said code was found to be so amateurish and clumsy that the authorities had withdrawn the Draft “Labour Code on Social Security & Welfare, 2017” in toto, when those defects had been pointed out to them.  

3. Adequate amount of compensation (called as ‘Benefits’ in legal parlance) to the working population ensures decent livelihood. The benefits provided under the ESI Act remain a goal post assuring the working population of acceptable standards of quality of life, when in distress. It is towards this goal, the rest of the working population not yet covered by the ESI Act, should be led to. The original ESI Act of the year 1948 itself, provides for such expansion and extension. It is significant to recall in the context that the Hon’ble High Court of Madras has, while dealing with issues pertaining to the ESI Act, observed that “the object of the Act is to provide certain benefits to the employees or dependants in case of sickness, maternity and employment injury, etc., to give effect to Art. 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, which assures human sensitivity of moral responsibility of every State that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (C. Indira Vs. Senthil & Co. – 2009 (2) LLN. 302). “The object of the legislation is to protect the weaker section with a view to do social justice” (Chandramathi Vs. ESIC – 2003 (4) LLN. 1143). Such an important statute, the ESI Act, has been providing five major benefits along with many other important benefits to the working population for the past 68 years. Not many employers could provide superior or substantially equivalent benefits and get exemption as provided for under Sec. 87 – 91 of the Act. 

4. Hon’ble Supreme Court has, in its judgment dated 10.05.1995, in LIC of India Vs. Consumer Education & Research Centre, held, “Right to livelihood springs from the right to life guaranteed under Article 21. The health and strength of a worker is an integral facet of right to life. Right to human dignity, development of personality, social protection are fundamental rights to the workmen. Medical facilities to protect the health of the workers are fundamental rights to workmen. It was, therefore, held that “the right to health, medical aid and to protect the health and the vigour of a worker while in service or post retirement is a fundamental right under Article 21 read with Articles 39(e), 41, 43, 48-A of the Constitution of India and fundamental human right to make the life of workmen meaningful and purposeful with dignity of persons. 

5. Hon’ble Supreme Court added, “In Regional Director, ESI Corporation v. Francis De Costa, 1993 supp (4) SCC 100 at 105, the same view was stated. Security against sickness and disablement is fundamental right under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 7(b) of international Convention of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and under Articles 39(e), 38 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Employees State Insurance Act seeks to provide succour to maintain health of an injured workman and the interpretation should be so given as to give effect to right to medical benefit which is a fundamental right to the workman”.

6. But the authorities of the Ministry of Labour did not want the Indian society to attain such an ideal level. They made attempt once again in the year 2018 to reduce the benefits already available to the working population under the ESI Act. They, therefore, brought in the revised Draft “Labour Code on Social Security, 2018” on 01.03.2018. Clause 63 (Part I), 78 (Part J), of the Draft Code of the year 2018 would testify to mala fide intention of the officials of the Ministry of Labour to reduce the benefits, in contrast with Sec. 46 of the ESI Act and the relevant rules made thereunder. This was also withdrawn later as that draft also did not meet the standards of legislative drafting, let alone its contents and purpose. 

7. But these officials would not leave the issue at that. Hellbent on reducing the benefits provided under the ESI Act to the working population, these officials, who did not reveal the Drafting Policy to the public till then, brought in the Draft “ Code on Social Security, 2019” which was circulated on 17.09.2019. They chose to gain knowledge the wrong way from their experience in the years 2017 and 2018. They did not want to relent from their desire to reduce the benefits already available under the ESI Act; also, they did not want the people to know of their mala fide intentions. So they chose to delete all references, wherever they were, in the Draft Code about the quantum of benefits proposed to be paid under the new Code, to the working population and took all the details of eligibility, rate and scale of all the benefits to the domain of Subordinate Legislation which would be decided later at the convenience of the bureaucrats. The phraseology used by them in Clause 34 (1) and (3) would testify to this fact. It was an uncanny trick played by the officials to cheat the legislature and the public of the nation to get a law enacted by the Legislature to arm the Executive to do something which the Legislature does not know at all. Such a law-making to empower the authorities to wield uncanalised and sweeping powers in violative of all canons of Subordinate Legislation.

8. But the circular dated  17.09.2019 of the Ministry of Labour, which put this Draft Code in public domain for discussion by the stakeholders giving time to them up to 25.10.2019 to respond with “suggestions”, “comments” and “inputs”, had been withdrawn at the behest of the PMO within three weeks, as reported by the Economic Times on 04.10.2019. People were, therefore, waiting for a revised further draft that would be put in public domain by the Ministry of Labour inviting comments and suggestions from the stakeholders. 

9. But all of a sudden the Ministry of Labour sprang a shock on the public and caused a Bill (No. 375 of 2019) to be placed before the House of the People (Lok Sabha) on 06.12.2019, ignoring the pre-legislative process of consulting the stakeholders. The fact is that the Draft Codes circulated in the years 2017 and 2018 had to be and had been dumped in toto after consultation. The Draft Code of 2019 put in public domain on 17.09.2019 (inviting comments up to 25.10.2019) had been returned by the PMO itself in the first week of October 2019. The revised Draft Code which was prepared after the PMO returned the Draft of 17.09.2019, had never been put in public domain before placing it in the Lok Sabha on 06.12.2019. The officials of the Ministry of Labour had bypassed the pre-legislative process of consultation with the stakeholders before they caused it to be sent it to the Lok Sabha on 06.12.2019. The concept of democracy had been taken for a ride by these bureaucrats. 

10. This Draft Code on Social Security, 2019, which is now before the Lok Sabha as Bill No. 375 of 2019 does also not go by the established principles of law-making. Clause 32 (1) and (3) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 is identical to the Clause 34 (1) and (3) of the Draft Code circulated on 17.09.2019 and withdrawn later. It shows that the officials of the Ministry of Labour chose to deliberately cheat the people about the benefit provisions and did not want to assure them that the benefits enjoyed by the working population at present as per the ESI Act would be continued. Leaving everything to subordinate legislation, the Code has left the entire workforce in the wilderness. When an existing law is proposed to be changed, people do have the right to know whether the benefits that would be available would be the same or more or less. That precise issue has not been answered to by the Ministry of Labour. The officials of the Ministry of Labour have thus conspired against a large section of the humanity in India and have made uncertain and indefinite the assured benefits enjoyed for the past 68 years by those who had been covered under the provisions of the ESI Act. These bureaucrats have, thereby, committed a clear misconduct, by not explaining to the workforce the reason for reducing the benefits that had been paid so long. Their silence and persistent tricks played with the drafting of the impugned Code shows that they are not working for the welfare of the working population but are working for some vested interests who are against proper welfare measures for the labour. 

11. I submit that the International Social Security Association defines the term Social Security as under: “Social security may be defined  as any programme of social protection established by legislation, or any  other mandatory arrangement, that provides individuals with a degree of  income security when faced with the contingencies of old age,  survivorship, incapacity, disability, unemployment or rearing children.  It may also offer access to curative or preventive medical care”. This is what the ESI Act is providing all along for the past seven decades. The ‘degree of income security’ that India has been providing to its working population is ranging from 70% to 90% in the event of various contingencies as mentioned supra. There is no justification in the action of the officials of the Ministry of Labour to make the continuance of these benefits uncertain by playing with words in the Bill No. 375 of 2019 and thereby playing foul with the lives and livelihood of the working population of India covered already under the provisions of the ESI Act. 

12. What is visible in the text of the impugned Bill is only the cleverness and not compassion on the part of the officials of the Ministry of Labour. Conspiring against the Labour and denying them even the existing benefits cannot be the purpose for which a ministry is supposed to function in the name of Labour. These officials have committed plain and clear misconduct by not placing the contents of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 before the public for ascertaining the opinion of the stakeholders, before taking them to the Parliament. These officials are guilty of not having honoured the concept of pre-legislative process of proper consultation with the stakeholders. It is apparent that they are working for and at the behest of some vested interests in a persistent manner to deny the existing benefits to the working population covered under the ESI Act. They did not make the drafting policy public in the years 2017 and 2018 to convince the public why they had prepared those drafts in the manner in which they had prepared it. 

13. The procedure of drafting legislations requires the rulers to entrust the Drafting Team with the ‘legislative policy’. Mr. Justice. M. Jagannadha Rao, Chairman of the 17th Law Commission of India, has written a paper on Legislative Drafting. He says, The draftsman is not the author of the legislative policy, he merely tries to transform the legislative policy into words. The legislative policy is made by the political executive which belongs to the political party which is ruling the legislature or by the monarch who reigns over the country. The draftsman must, therefore, digest the legislative policy fully before he produces the instrument of legislation which can achieve the legislative purpose”. The issue here, with the Labour Code, is why the Drafting Team does not make the concerned ‘legislative policy’ public.

14. They kept the drafting policy a mysteriously secretive one then. And even now the same mystery and secrecy continue, as could be seen from the nebulous and evasive ‘Notes on Clauses’ and ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ that accompany the aforesaid Bill No. 375 of 2019 dated 06.12.2019. 

15. I submit the ISSA declares that Social Security is a “fundamental human right”. In India it is part of the Directive Principles and the direction is to the State to provide “public assistance”. But the officials in the Ministry of Labour are attempting at reducing the very concept of social security to be a matter of business affair instead of viewing it as a human right elevated from the state of Directive Principles.

16. Art. 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security”. The ESI Act has been providing for such security that kept the image of the nation in international arena in a prestigious position. The ISSA had given the ‘Best Practices Award’ to the ESIC in the year 2012. The Award was given by the ISSA at Seoul on 30.10.2012, declaring that “The ESI Corporation of India has made remarkable efforts to extend social security protection to the workforce in India”. In all, 41 nations participated in the competition meant for Asia and the Pacific 2012 and India got the first prize. Launched in 2008, the ISSA Good Practice Award programme is organized on a regional basis over a three-year cycle and has garnered international attention from social security institutions. But the officials of the Ministry of Labour want to undo all the good things about the benefits provided under the ESI Act.

17. Distributive justice which is essential to achieve social and economic democracy has been made available to the citizens of all the civilized nations only through social security schemes. The ESI Act provides topmost social security benefits to the working population in India. It is only the nations, which implement the social security schemes, which top the list of International Human Development Index.  Hon’ble Supreme Court has, in Samatha Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1997) 8 SCC 191 (Para 75), observed that “The core constitutional objective of ‘social and economic democracy’ in other words, just social order, cannot be established without removing the inequalities in income and making endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status through the rule of law. The mandate for social and economic retransformation requires that the material resources or their ownership and control should be so distributed as to sub serve the common good. A new social order, therefore, would emerge, out of the old unequal or hierarchical social order. The legislative or executive measures, therefore, should be necessary for the reconstruction of the unequal social order by corrective and distributive justice through the rule of law”.

18. Hon’ble High Court of Madras has, in ESIC Vs. S. Savithri 2003 (3) LLJ 250, observed that “The Scheme of the Act, Rules and Regulations spelled out that the insurance covered under the Act is distinct and differs from the contract of insurance in general….The Division Bench of the Madras High Court observed that the Act in fact tries to attain the goal of socio-economic justice enshrined in the Directive Principles of State Policy”. Hon’ble High Court has also said therein that the ESI Act “covers a wide spectrum of than the Factories Act, 1948”. The importance of the ESI Scheme to a nation would become evident from this observation. The Act provides security-net to the working population at a higher level that takes the nation to a highly civilised status in the matter of labour welfare. But the officials at the Ministry of Labour are working overtime with oblique motives to reduce the existing benefits available to the working population under the ESI Act. 

19. Eduardo Doyan, the World Bank’s Vice President for Human Development, and a former Costa Rican Education in 1994-98 had said that “The debt crisis of the 1980’s in Latin America, and then the recent East Asia Crisis, have shown just how quickly people’s lives are turned upside down by steep recession, and how the poor suffer the most during these times…….So social safety nets are vital to catch people who lose their jobs, become hungry or sick. But a system that solely concentrates on helping poor people deal with a crisis (only when) it happens runs the risk of keeping them in a poverty trap by not providing any opportunities. We need to embrace a more holistic approach that make social protection more like a springboard that lets people jump into more secure lives”.

20. The World Bank’s report in 1994 had identified the existence of the link between the sound social security system of a country and its ability to compete effectively in the world market. So, at least, the business interest must motivate the need for providing social security universally. The very purpose of government is to ensure a peaceful society. A society to remain peaceful, there must be prosperity all around and, if there is disparity, there must be a cushion to absorb the resultant social shock. That can be done only through social security measures. There can, therefore, be no justified reason for the dilution of benefits attempted at by the officials of the Ministry of Labour, except that they allow themselves to be used by vested interests that work against real labour welfare. 

21. The social security system established in India in the year 1948 was evolved out of the famous report of Sir William Beveridge which contributed already to the strength of the National Health Scheme in the UK. The ESI Scheme in India had been modelled on and drawn from the same ‘Beveridge Report’. Any independent analyst who examines the social security provisions of every nation for comparison and contrast would declare, unequivocally, that the ESI Act, 1948 of India is a symbol of civilisation. Every social security enactment is intended to take every society towards a civilised status. In the matter of social security, the Scandinavian countries provide examples to be emulated. Private players cannot provide real social security and they cannot have a have role in it. The Hindu, had editorially conceded on 01.01.2005, that “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 honourable exceptions, to operate health care systems for their workforce”. 

22. The working population covered under the ESI Act, should not be made to suffer from the misconduct of the officials of the Ministry of Labour who indulged in various bureaucratic tricks to deny the former the continued cash and medical benefits in the scale and rate as available under the ESI Act. But the officials of the Ministry of Labour, working under the Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India, Shram Shakthi Bhavan, Rafi Marg, New Delhi- 110001,  have consistently been indulging in such a misconduct consciously, deliberately and in a calculated manner during the past three years commencing from the date of the publication of the first draft on Labour Code on Social Security & Welfare on 16.03.2017.

23. I respectfully submit that

        • the Code on Social Security, 2019, (Bill No. 375 of 2019 dated 06.12.2019), had been presented in the Lok Sabha with the intention of replacing the existing ESI Act (along with 8 others). The very fact that this new legislation does not assure the continuance of the existing benefits provided under the ESI Act, amounts to blatant denial of fundamental human rights to the workers and employees covered under the ESI Act. 

       

        • The reason why such an attempt to reduce the benefit had been made in the Draft Codes of 2017 and 2018 has not been explained till date by the Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India. 

       

        • The Note on Clauses and the Statement of Object and Reasons accompanying the said Bill No. 375 of 2019 do also not explain why the benefits available now under the ESI Act are attempted to be kept uncertain without any assurance of their continuance in the proposed Code for which the said Bill No. 375 of 2019 has been presented.

       

        • All these misconducts have been deliberately and consciously indulged in by the officials of the Ministry of Labour. The Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India, is the authority in charge of the Ministry besides being the controlling authority of the officials who were deputed by him to draft the said Bill No. 375 of 2019. He is, thus, guilty of having not protected the human rights available to the working population, by not providing in the impugned Bill,  the social security benefits which have been made available to the employees covered under the ESI Act till date. 

       

        • The action and inaction of the said Secretary, Ministry of Labour & Employment, has resulted in violation of the continued right of the  employees employed in factories and establishments covered under the ESI Act, to the existing social security benefits, which are their fundamental human rights. He is guilty of having committed the offence under Sec.12 (a) (i) and (ii) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. 

       

24. I, therefore, pray that the Hon’ble Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, may be pleased to order investigation of the issues involved in this violation of human rights of the insured population under Sec. 12 (a) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and review the safeguards under Sec. 12 (d) thereof to prevent recurrence of such unlawful activities in law making in the future. 

Yours faithfully,

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TANSI land grabbing & ESIC Medical College grabbing!

Ms. Jayalalitha, as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, manipulated law and procedure, in the year 1991 and 1992, to grab the land that belonged to the TANSI Foundry. The TANSI, the Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation Limited, was a Government Company, the entire shares of which were held by the Government of Tamil Nadu. She manipulated the tender procedure and got the land sold by the Government to Tamil Nadu, through G.O. Ms. No. 18 issued on 20.01.1992 to her own business concern, M/s Jaya Publications. This was an unregistered partnership concern in which she and one Ms. Sasikala were partners.

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The Office of the TANSI, Guindy. One of the many.

 

It was a fact that for long, a Code of Conduct for Ministers had been in force in Tamil Nadu. It was a G.O, a Government Order. “A Code of Conduct for Ministers was brought into force by G.O.Ms. Nos. 1350 on June 16, 1968 which was revised from time to time and clause 2(b) thereto provides that ‘a Minister shall refrain from buying from, or selling to, the Government any immovable property except where such property is compulsorily acquired by the Government in the usual course and refrain from starting, or joining, any business’. There was allegation that Ms. Jayalalitha had violated the provision of these conduct rules.

The matter was taken to court of law and she was found guilty by the trial court. The Trial Judge convicted Ms. Jayalalitha, Ms. Sasikala and the  bureaucrats involved in the case.

Thus spake the Supreme Court

When the matter went to the Supreme Court later, it held in its 24 pages judgment in R. Sai Bharathi Vs. J. Jayalalitha and others on 24.11.2003, as under:

supreme court

“Officers even holding small posts like a Railway Property Keeper or a Cattle Pound Keeper or a Process Nazir who is put in charge of the sale of properties in a court auction cannot purchase the properties over which they have control. In the present case, in view of the fact that Government headed by the 1st Respondent has to give permission in respect of the sale of property of these two companies, it certainly exercises powers over the same and thus there is conflict of interest. Where there is conflict of interest law has always avoided such sales being effected in favour of those who can jeopardise the fair outcome of the transaction. Whatever may be our findings on the question of valuation of the property whether it resulted in a pecuniary advantage to A-1 or not, we are clear in our mind that if the officers and others become aware of the fact that the Chief Minister of the State is interested in purchasing some properties, the bureaucracy will be over-enthusiastic to see that the sale goes through smoothly and at a price desired by such Chief Minister. Though we can visualise such situation, such facts have to be established by concrete evidence to be convicted in a criminal case and is hard or difficult to get. At any rate, it is plain that such conduct is opposed to the spirit of the Code of Conduct if not its letter.

Morally speaking, Can there be one law for small officials of the Government and another law for the Chief Minister? In matters of such nature, is the Code of Conduct meant only to be kept as an ‘ornamental relic’ in a museum but not to be practised ? These aspects do worry our conscience. Respondent No.1 in her anxiety to save her skin went to any length even to deny her signature on documents which her auditor and other Government officials identified.

Report leading to IPC makes it clear that criminal law merely prescribes the minimum standards of behaviour, while in public life, those who hold high offices should not take shelter under the umbrella of criminal law but stand by high probity. Further, criminal law is meant to deal with criminals ordinarily, while Code of Conduct is observed as gentlemen’s agreement. Persons in public life, who are gentlemen, follow such Code instead of taking escape routes by resorting to technical pleas as arise in criminal cases. Persons in public life are expected to maintain very high standards of probity and, particularly, when there is likely to be even least bit of conflict of interest between the office one holds and the acts to be done by such person, ought to desist himself from indulging in the same. Such standards of behaviour were scrupulously observed in the earlier days after independence, but those values how now dwindled and instances of persons holding high elective offices indulging in self- aggrandisement by utilising Government property or in distribution of the largesse of the Government to their own favourites or for certain quid pro quo are on the increase. We have to strongly condemn such actions. Good ethical behaviour on the part of those who are in power is the hallmark of a good administration and people in public life must perform their duties in a spirit of public service rather than by assuming power to indulge in callous cupidity regardless of self imposed discipline.

Irrespective of the fact whether we reach the conclusion that A-1 is guilty of the offences with which she is charged or not, she must atone for the same by answering her conscience in the light of what we have stated not only by returning the property to TANSI unconditionally but also ponder over whether she had done the right thing in breaching the spirit of the Code of Conduct and giving rise to suspicion that rules and procedures were bent to acquire the public property for personal benefit, though trite to say that suspicion however strong cannot take place of legal proof in a criminal case and take steps to expiate herself.” (For more, please visit: Indian Kanoon – http://indiankanoon.org/doc/447378/ )

And Ms. Jayalalitha expiated herself by returning the land grabbed from the TANSI. All because she did not have the assistance of bureaucrats who were as clever as the bureaucrats of the present Central Government who drafted the Bill on the Code of Social Security, 2019 (which has been placed before the House of the People as Bill No. 375 of 2019). Also because she did not have a son or daughter who could be shown to be the purchaser instead of having her own name recorded in the sale deed. Also because she did not and could not have faith in any benami.

ESIC Medical Colleges grabbing

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ESIC Medical College & Hospital Complex, Joka, Kolkata, one of the many.

 

It would be appropriate to keep the TANSI – Jayalalitha episodes in mind while examining the puzzling provisions in Clause 39 (5) of the Bill on the Code of Social Security, 2019 (Bill No. 375 of 2019) which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, on 23.12.2019, reads:

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.

Explanation: 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).”

Significantly this provision had never been put in public domain by the draftsmen. In fact, this provision is an improvement from the earlier provision inserted by the bureaucrats in Clause 41(5) of the earlier draft Labour Code on Social Security, 2019, which had been put in public domain on 17.09.2019 but had been withdrawn by the PMO in the first week of October 2019. That was the third draft, the earlier ones being those publicised for the information and response of the stake holders in 2017 and 2018.

The first two drafts put in public domain in the years 2017 and 2018 had, rightly, been dumped because of their having been amateurish at the very first sight. But the third draft dated 17.09.2019 had betrayed the intention of the persons behind the draft at first sight. The said Clause 41(5) read:

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.”

The words “any person” found in the above Clause in the third draft showed very clearly the intention of the draftsman to make smooth provision to divert the huge property of the ESI Corporation to private individuals. The same is the intention behind Sec. 39 (5) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019. i.e., to enable some interested private person to take over the medical colleges, built at a humongous cost.

Diverting the possession of public property to private hands

While the handing over of those mammoth structures to the Central Government, any State Government, any Public Sector Undertaking of the Central Government or the State Government is the right and understandable decision, there is no justification in handing over those Medical Colleges and Training Institutions to private sector let alone private individuals either as a single person or as a body of persons or as ‘organisation of persons’. The fine phrases used in the Clause to qualify the phrase, “the organisation of persons”, with subsequent phrases such as  the “consider”ation of the “Central Government” or  examination whether they are  “capable to run colleges and training institutions” are simply attempts at cheating the legislators and the public at large. The phraseology in Clause 39 (5) is a clear indicator of bureaucratic skulduggery of the year 2019 typical of many such amendments proposed ten years ago in 2009, vide Bill No. 66  of 2009,  in the ESI Act.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee is therefore required to examine this provision thoroughly, with open mind, keeping public interest in mind. The Committee may please take action to obtain the explanation of the draftsman and the other bureaucrats who colluded with him. It is also necessary that these facts have to be documented correctly and taken to its Report submitted to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

Essential Questions that need answers

Some of the essential questions that need proper answers of the bureaucrats in respect of the said Clause 39(5) are:

1. Who was the individual who came up with the original proposal for the inclusion of the phrase “or any person notified by the Central Government” in Clause 41(5) of the draft Labour Code on Social Security put in public domain on 17.09.2019?

2. If nobody had proposed inclusion of that sentence, was it included personally by the concerned draftsman only?

3. Who was the individual who proposed the modification of the phrase “any person” in the said Clause 41(5) in the previous draft and included in Clause 39(5) of the latest Code on Social Security placed before the Parliament, the phrase “any other body” and added an Explanation also to it to clarify that the phrase “other body” was to mean “organisation of persons which the Central Government considers capable to run colleges and training institutions referred to in sub-section (4).”? (It is very clear that such an inclusion in the earlier draft and modification in the current Bill are conscious, calculated and deliberate moves with an intended purpose. So, the draftsman concerned should explain before the Parliamentary Committee what motivated him or who advised him to insert such phrases with such a devotion, attention, care and caution.)

4. What was the advantage to the Indian public if these ESIC medical colleges and training institutions are handed over to such ‘organisation of persons’ or to some private individuals masquerading themselves as ‘organisation of persons’? Was any such issue examined on file before it was decided to include those phrases in the present Bill?

5. What would be the terms of such handing over? Have those terms been already finalised or would be finalised only after the Bill concerned has been made an Act?

6. What would be the duration for which those ‘organisation of persons’ would be allowed to run those medical colleges and training institutions? For a lease period of 5 years, 10 years or 99 years? (The records showing the examination of this issue before inclusion of this phrase should be produced before the Parliamentary Standing Committee).

7. What are the precedents, if there are any, which gave the idea to the draftsman to draft the said Clause 39 (5), the way he has drafted?

8. Can a law ever be framed with nebulous provisions like the ones in Clause 39 (5) along with its peculiar ‘Explanation’, without extensive discussion of the pros and cons of such phraseology and without keeping the details of such discussion on record? Should those files not be produced before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour now?

9. How will those Medical Colleges and Training Institutions be run by the private “organisation of persons”? Will it be in public interest or for private profit? If for private profit, how can running those colleges and training institutions by such private organisation be equated, in Clause 39 (5) and treated to be on par in status, with the running of those institutions by the Central Government and State Government or the PSUs of the Central Government or State Government?

10. Will the large ESIC Hospitals attached to the said Medical Colleges would also be handed over to those “organisation of persons”? If so, what will happen to the secondary and tertiary care of the insured persons covered under the ESI Act? Where are the papers in which these issues had been examined before venturing to insert the phrases to facilitate the entry of private persons for taking over the property of the ESIC to run the medical colleges?

 

To sum up,

These are essential questions but only minimum. The draftsman who drafted the said Code on Social Security which is pending consideration of the Parliamentary Standing Committee now as Bill No. 375 of 2019, has the bounden duty to answer these questions before the legislators. Because he knows the answers. Also because his role could be the root cause of a very big scandal that is going to erupt.

Carte blanche Subordinate Legislation

The present provision in Clause 39 (5) can, if made law, be easily used to divert the possession of the ESI Medical Colleges, in the name of lease for decades and decades, to the sons and daughters of the powerful ministers or leaders of the ruling dispensation who could cock a snook at every law  and every citizen of the country. The subordinate legislation required for enforcing the Clause 39 (5) is not in public domain. The Parliament is also not going to be aware of the nature of such a subordinate legislation, until it gives approval to the present Clause 39 (5). As things stand, this Clause is actually an unwanted and unwarranted blank cheque, a carte blanche in the hands of bureaucrats.

The Apex Court had said, “Unlike Parliamentary legislation which is publicly made, delegated legislation or subordinate legislation is often made unobtrusively in the chambers of a minister, a secretary to the Governor or other official dignitary.” (ITC Bhadrachalam Paperboards Vs. Mandal Revenue Officer 1996 (6) SCC 634 and Harla Vs. State of Rajasthan AIR 1951 SC 467 and B.K. Srinivasan Vs. State of Karnataka AIR 1987 SC 1059). There is no guarantee that that subordinate legislation would be drafted by the bureaucrats to serve public interest when the parent legislation, the Bill in hand, itself has been drafted in a wily manner to serve private interests.

Such subordinate legislations of many public institutions like the IITs, which have been loosely and carelessly prepared and put to use, have not been placed even before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Subordinate Legislation for decades, resulting in continued mismanagement of the organisations like the IIT-Madras by the bureaucrats of the IITM in collusion with the bureaucrats of the Ministry of HRD with impunity. Evidences are aplenty and many cases are pending judicial review of the commissions and omissions of these bureaucrats.

Coalgate

Clause 39(5) in the Bill No. 375 of 2019 is an enabling provision which is patently unlawful in its content and purpose. This will result in favouritism and corruption of a colossal size.  Unrestricted and unconstitutional discretionary power is given to the bureaucracy to frame subordinate legislation in this regard to suit extending such favouritism to the people who are seemingly kept in the mind of the draftsman already. By recommending complete deletion of the words and phrases in the said Clause that enable diversion of possession to private hands, the  Parliamentary Standing Committee would be doing yeoman service to the nation, by saving  not only the public property and the public of the nation but also the Bureaucrats who forget the extent of their accountability and the importance of their role to defend the constitutional values. What is more, they choose even to ignore the fate of bureaucrats involved in the Coalgate. The sudden inclusion of these phrases in the year 2019 needs deeper probe into the issue.

Prayer to the PSC on Labour

It is prayed that keeping the interest of the nation and the public in mind the members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour would pour into the facts and circumstances behind this mysterious and mischievous Clause 39 (5) of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 and recommend the total deletion of the phrase “or any other body notified by the Central Government” along with the Explanation given therein to clarify the expression ‘other body’.

That will be a real service of the Hon’ble Members to the working population of India for all the time to come. It is in their hands now to ensure that no TANSI is repeated elsewhere.

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ESIC Medical Colleges, Clause 39 (5) & The Race of the Ultra-Rich!

(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.)

 

 

Scene I

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?

B: (Smiles.)

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.”

B: Then?

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.

B: Then?

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.

B: Then?

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.

B: Then?

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).

Scene II

 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).

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Social Security Code, 2019: Please put it for stakeholders’ discussion first!

22.04.2020

To

Mr. Bhartruhari Mahtab,

Hon’ble M.P &  Chairman,

Standing Committee of Parliament on Labour,

South Block,

New Delhi – 110011.

 

(Through Mr. Kulvinder Singh, Deputy Secretary, Parliament of India, House of the People,

email: comm.labour-lss@sansad.nic.in)

 

Sub: Social Security Code, 2019– does not provide acceptable standards of quality of life – Ordinance route – improper – representation – submitted.

 

Ref: News item in the NDTV on 13.04.2020.

 

Sir,

1. I am compelled to submit this representation because of the news item that appeared In the NDTV under the caption “Amid COVID-19 Effects, Executive Orders To Fast-Track Labour Codes” on 13.04.2020 which says that The coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown has pushed the government to take the ordinance route to formulate three of the four labour codes it is planning. I submit that any such action in a hurry to rush through the Labour Code on Social Security is fraught with dangerous consequences to the entire Indian society, for all the time to come. The facts of the case are that the last draft Bill was put in public domain for discussion on 17.09.2019 in File No. Z-13025/13/2015-LRC, giving stakeholders time to respond up to 25.10.2019 with “suggestions”, “comments” and “inputs”. But the draft was withdrawn at the behest of the PMO within three weeks, as reported by the Economic Times on 04.10.2019. To the shock of everyone, all of a sudden, a formal Code on Social Security got introduced in the Parliament on 06.12.2019 as Bill No. 375 of 2019 and the Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour on 23.12.2019. The Standing Committee is now seized of the issue. I submit that this cannot be the way of deciding the livelihood of a large section of humanity, the working population of India and the stakeholders in providing social security to them.

2. There had been so many things fishy in this matter of preparation of code on social security, right from the beginning. It is common knowledge that neither the Finance Ministry nor the Labour Ministry could find out, for the past five long years, who played the mischief in smuggling in the mischievous phrase against the ESIC and the EPFO using the word, “hostages” in the Budget Speech of Mr. Arun Jaitely on 28.02.2015, without any documentary evidence and authorised source. That exactly was the point of origin of great conspiracy by certain vested interests who were all out to demolish the well-established social security structure of the entire nation. They had had illicit access to the power centres, it became evident from the reply of the Ministry of Finance in O.M. No. 2/98670/2015-RTI dated 13.05.2015. (For more, https://flourishingesic.info/2015/06/10/hostages-accusation-against-esic-epfo-without-documents/ ).

3. The benefits provided by the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 are the best which, every succeeding government should try to better. This Act assures that the dependants of an employee who met with a fatal employment injury would get about 80 to 90% of the wages drawn by the deceased employee as Dependants Benefit. 3/5 of it is for the spouse and the remaining 2/5 is for the children up to 25 years of age. If the child is infirm at the time of the death of the employee concerned, that child gets its share throughout its lifetime.

4. Similarly, the employee gets 80% to 90% of his wages as compensation in the event Temporary Disablement caused due to Employment Injury. One who suffers from ordinary sickness is entitled to get 60% to 70% of the wages as compensation for 91 days within two consecutive benefit periods constituting one year. In these cases, the cash benefits are in addition to the free medical aid, which is needed for the sickness or disease concerned, for which a large chain of dispensaries and hospitals have been established. The benefit called Extended Sickness Benefit that provides 80% of wages to the employees for about two years with free medical aid to them and their family members for three years is unmatched and can never be provided by any private player. The benefits payable to the insured persons in the event of their interim unemployment are immense and its importance assumes large dimension in the context the current nation-wide lockdown due to Covid virus. In order to ensure brevity, I am not dealing here with all the benefits provided under the ESI Scheme. But there is no assurance anywhere in the Social Security Code, 2019 that the benefits available as per the present statute would be continued. Leaving everything to subordinate legislation, the Code has left the entire workforce in the wilderness. When an existing law is proposed to be changed, people do have the right to know whether the benefits that would be available would be the same or more or less. That issue has not been answered to.

5. It is appropriate to recall the fact that Paul Krugman, the celebrated Nobel Prize Winner of 2011 has examined the issue in depth and warned the American legislators not to fall victim to the propagandists of privatisation of social security. It is also worth noting that a leader who wanted to privatise Social Security was looked at as an anti-people leader by the public. The presidential candidates of the USA in the year 2004 wanted to make use of that impression to villainise each other. Mr. John Kerry wanted to scare away the voters from voting again for President George. W. Bush saying that the latter was planning a surprise second term attempt to privatise social security and forecast a “disaster for America’s middle class”.  “I’ll tell you what. I will never privatise social security”, Mr. Kerry said. The spokesman of Mr. George W. Bush, the Republican Party Chairman, Ed Gillespie, called the charge “just flat inaccurate”. None of the parties wanted privatisation of social security there. These incidents would show the importance of keeping the social security scheme in public sector, to provide social security benefits as a sovereign duty, in accordance with Art. 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Art. 39, 41 and 42 of the Constitution of India.

6. A Social Security Scheme provides a security-net assuring every employee that his economic condition and health condition would not be allowed to fall below that net. It is a safety net that gives peace of mind to the employee and ensures peace and harmony in the entire society, referred to at length in the Preamble of the Charter of the International Labour Organisation, established in 1919 AD.

7. The social security system established in India in the year 1948 was evolved out of the famous report of Sir William Beveridge which contributed already to the strength of the National Health Scheme in the UK. The ESI Scheme in India had been modelled on and drawn from the same ‘Beveridge Report’. Any independent analyst who examines the social security provisions of every nation for comparison and contrast would declare, unequivocally, that the ESI Act, 1948 of India is a symbol of civilisation. Every social security enactment is intended to take every society towards a civilised status. In the matter of social security, the Scandinavian countries provide examples to be emulated. Private players cannot provide real social security and they cannot have a have role in it. The Hindu, had editorially conceded on 01.01.2005, that “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 honourable exceptions, to operate health care systems for their workforce”.

8. But instead of taking the nation forward the three draft Labour Codes on Social Security prepared in the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 put the nation on the path of retardation, and consequently those efforts ended up in failure. Because the intention of those interests who drafted those Codes was not for providing real social security but to deny social security and demolish even the existing structure, while maintaining a facade that they were taking action for the welfare of all the people. These three drafts had been withdrawn from public discussion because of the incomplete, incongruous and inadequate provisions therein. It was a fact that the PMO itself had disagreed with the draft circulated on 17.09.2019 in File No. Z-13025/13/2015-LRC and ordered to withdraw that last draft. All those three drafts had, literally, been running into hundreds of pages. It is, therefore, not proper to make use of the pandemonium created by the Covid pandemic and enforce such a voluminous Labour Code on Social Security through an Ordinance.

9. The ESI Act provides a goal post, a decent and reasonable standard, for social security in the Indian context. It provides an ideal security net and it has been successful all along. What is required now is to make use of Sec. 1 (5) of the Act that enables the ESI Scheme to be extended to the establishments in all the four sectors, ( industrial, commercial, agricultural and otherwise) and provide social security of the same standard to all the employees in all those sectors. It is not necessary to prepare the code as has been done thrice by the vested interests who wanted to really deny even the existing security cover. These draft codes reduced the existing benefits instead of providing more benefits to more workers.

10. I submit that the need of the hour is to run the organisation corruption-free and not to run down the organisation and its concept. But that is not being done. Even the CAG has not been helpful to monitor the functioning right. He failed to detect the huge fraud committed in the name of construction of medical colleges and prepared a slip-shod report bearing No. 40 of 2015. When challenged in the W.P. 33775 of 2016 and W.P. 35284 of 2016 in the Hon’ble High Court of Madras, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India could not file any counter-affidavit, for the past four long years, while the Cabinet Secretary himself had filed his counter-affidavit within a year. I submit that it is worth probing into the puzzling silence of the CAG who is, now, afraid of judicial review of his inactions and lapses on this serious issue. This CAG has, through his report No. 40 of 2015, cheated the President, the Parliament and the public in this matter and is, deliberately, trying to avoid accountability. I submit that it is there where the government should concentrate.

11. 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).

 

12. But the intention of the forces which caused the preparation of the three drafts on Labour Code on Social Security in2017, 2018 and 2019, was to radically reduce the acceptable standards of quality of life when the workers meet with various contingencies in life. These three drafts reduced even the existing time-tested benefits provided under the ESI Act. These drafts made the government to disown its constitutional responsibility and gave freehand to private players to play havoc with the lives of the working population. No explanation had ever been given by the brains behind those drafts to justify their attempt. Silence cannot be the answer to valid questions which the persons who drafted those drafts found uncomfortable. Now, the news item mentioned in the reference cited has caused genuine alarm and apprehension in the minds of the people about the fate of social security in the nation.

13. I submit that the very introduction of ‘the Code on Social Security, 2019’ in the Parliament as Bill No. 375 of 2019 on 06.12.2019 is premature, as the draft Bill placed in public domain on 17.09.2019 had been withdrawn at the instance of the PMO, as reported in the Economic Times on 04.10.2019. I, therefore, fervently pray that the mode of ordinance may not be resorted to for enforcing any Labour Code on Social Security, when the need of the hour, after the withdrawal of the third draft circulated on 17.09.2019, is to do the preliminary work of preparing a fresh draft Labour Code on Social Security and putting it in public domain for public discussion.

14. As there has been no real public discussion on the contents of the Bill placed before the Parliament on 06.12.2019, I request that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour may be pleased to recommend withdrawal of the Bill No. 375 of 2019 from the Parliament for placing it in the public domain first inviting ‘suggestions”, “comments”, and “inputs”, from the stakeholders, as called for in the letter dated 17.09.2019 of the Ministry of Labour.

With profound regards,

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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