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Lord Yama Dharma Raja discusses Amendment to Sec. 44 !

 

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The Otherworld. The venue is the palace of Lord Yama Dharma Raja. Among those in the assembly were Prof. B.P. Adharkar, Sir William Beveridge, Robert Owen, Jerome Blanqui, Villerme, Daniel Legrand and others.

Lord: “Dear Mr. Beveridge ! I was hovering over the Heaven this morning ,watching the activities of the noble souls here. I was shocked to find you people sitting under a tree morosely. That was why I asked Chitragupta to bring you all here. How come you were sad? This is heaven; there is no reason for any soul here to feel worried. But, why is it that you were in a pensive mood, instead of enjoying the morning sun and the soft-blowing breeze?”

Beveridge: “My Lord ! Prof. Adharkar was sad about the activities of the bureaucrats and the politicians in power in India to amend the Sec. 44 of the ESI Act, 1948. He was the architect of the Act there. He knows the consequences of the amendment proposed by the bureaucrats now. He is, therefore, sad. When he explained the manner in which the Indian politicians go about it, I felt sad too. It so happened that Robert Owen and George Cadbury came that way. They were also shocked to hear about the amendment proposed by the Indian politicians. You might, perhaps, have seen us, then, when we were discussing about it”.

Lord: “Amendment to Sec. 44 of the ESI Act ! Did that make you so sad? I wonder why.  May I know what it is, Mr. Adharkar?’

Adharkar: “Yes, My Lord ! Mr. Beveridge had prepared a monumental document to provide social security to the people. It was published by the British Government in October, 1942. His report had, almost, been copied with some regional variations in many civilised countries. Mr. Beveridge had diagnosed the ills afflicting humanity and attempted to provide remedy only to one aspect of it. The ESI Act in India was inspired by his report on Social Security. But, the present day politicians want to do away with it. They are working for the rich to enable them to make more and more money and do not care for the poor who cannot raise their voice and make it to be heard”.

Beveridge: “Yes, My Lord ! It is the duty of the government to protect the commoners from being exploited by the rich and mighty. The Social Security enactments conceived of by me, work in that direction. The concept of Social Security is to make the world a civilised one. Humanity suffers from five ‘Giant Evils’. They are (i) Disease, (ii) Idleness, (iii) Ignorance, (iv) Squalour and (v) Want. Among these five evils, the last one, the “Want”, can be tackled in a relatively easier manner by the governments of every nation through organised action. The ESI Act was enacted by the Government of India in the year 1948 only for that purpose. But, the present day rulers do not care about the niceties of the concept of Social Security. Their present proposal to amend the Sec. 44 will ruin the entire nation. That is why Adharkar is upset so much”.

Lord: “Why do you feel upset Mr. Adharkar? Should the world stand still, as it was in the Forties? Why not the present day politicians make changes to suit the present conditions of the world? After all, more than 71 years have passed after you had given your report on 15th August 1944”.

Adharkar: “No, My Lord ! I would be happy if the concept of social security had been expanded and more benefits given, as is being done in Germany, Norway or Sweden, both in quality and quantity. But, in India the situation is otherwise. When I presented the report I recommended bringing the workmen who were drawing wages upto Rs. 200 pm, excluding Overtime wages, within the purview of this security-net. When the Act was enacted in 1948, the limit was kept as Rs. 400 pm. That was more than the salary of the District Collector in those days. Even in the 1970s, after the III Pay Commission Report was implemented, the limit for coverage was Rs. 1000 pm. That was more than the salary of the Local Office Manager of the ESI Corporation, who was disbursing the cash benefits. His Basic Pay was Rs. 550 pm, after the implementation of the said pay commission report and his total salary was only about Rs. 650 pm when the report was implemented. The Local Office staff members used to prepare the Dockets of payment to these Insured Persons with more respect, as those insured persons were drawing more salary than their own Local Office Manager. But, now the coverage limit is Rs. 15000 pm which is less than the salary of the employee appointed in the lowest cadre in the ESI Corporation. This itself would show that the scheme had not expanded in the real sense, although the number of persons brought under coverage has increased. But, I feel more concerned about the manner in which the politicians of these days want the government to abdicate its responsibility so that the rich businessmen would enter the field and make a mess of the nation”.

Lord: “How come ? Would such privatisation really make a mess of the entire nation? What is the reason given by these politicians to go for such privatisation?”

Adharkar: “These politicians say that the present scheme has resulted in holding the workers as hostages, within the ESIC fold. They say, in public, that privatisation would give them option to seek better facility elsewhere. But, that is not true, My Lord ! It is these politicians who are primarily responsible for corruption of various shades in large scale in every public organisation, including the ESIC. They spoil the organisation and then cite the same state of affairs to blame the organisation and sabotage it. Except some exceptions, the politicians in power do not come forward to make the organisation corruption-free and provide better service to humanity”.

Lord: “In that case, if corruption in public organisations cannot be prevented,  privatisation seems to be the better option”.

Adharkar: “No, My Lord ! These politicians who are not willing to  run this single public organisation corruption-free, in spite of the existence of effective tools like Conduct Rules and CCA Rules to control and monitor the officers, are not going to make the private organisations, which might venture into this field, to act in a corruption-free manner”.

Lord: “Why do they want private role in social security, then?”

Adharkar:  “Their real intention is not to protect the welfare of the workers but to provide more facility to the rich to make more and more money by opening up the field of social security also for them. The ESI Act came into existence after thorough study of the problems faced by the working population, for over a century. The Report of the Royal Commission of Labour of 1929-1931 necessitated it and the Report of Sir William Beveridge facilitated it. But, the present proposal to amend and dilute Sec. 44 did not emanate from any such public documents. There was no analysis of the experience of other nations, if any, in which such privatisation had been found to be a tremendous success. There was no public discussion on the issue, especially about the nitty-gritties of the nature of service that would be provided by the private players and the manner in which they would be monitored. The way in which the Obamacare was subjected to public discussion in the USA can be recalled in the context. No such discussion did ever take place before the bureaucrats of the PMO conspired to amend the Sec. 44 on the sly.

Lord: “Is it?”

Adharkar: “Yes, My Lord ! The aristocrats control the pliable bureaucracy in the PMO. The proposal to amend Sec. 44 originated from the bureaucrats of the Prime Minister’s Office who are habituated to bypass the Labour Minister’s Office and give directions directly to the Director General to do this and that. The very draft amendment as placed before the ESI Corporation on 07.04.2015. These bureaucrats who wield such unlawful power do not care about the welfare of the people. The very fact that the draft proposal placed on the table on 07.04.2015 received all-round condemnation (***) by the members of the apex body testify to the fact that it did not emanate from the people but from the top, as the brain child of those insensitive bureaucrats. And, those bureaucrats of the PMO believe that they are obliged only to please the rich. They believe that they are not accountable to the public. In regard to their political masters, they believe that the entire nation has been sold to them, once they get majority seats in the Parliament. It applies to all the political parties in India. The tradition of going to the people when they go for some major changes is absent in India. In essence, the Indian politicians do not know what Referendum means. They refuse to learn what UK did in the case of EEC. They just do not want the Indian democracy to mature.”

Lord: “Okay ! What, then, is your proposal to make the ESIC, a public organisation, corruption-free, if you want to retain the social security in public sector forever?”

Adharkar: “Corrupt bureaucrats are of four kinds, My Lord ! The first is Self-centred-Corrupt. The next is Organised-Corrupt. The third is Philanthropic-Corrupt. The fourth is High-fly Corrupt.

(Continued in Part II)

(***) Note: The Minutes of the meeting of the apex body of the ESIC is available at:

https://flourishingesic.info/2015/08/23/agenda-to-amend-sec-44-the-open-and-the-hidden/

 

(Image: courtesy: internet)

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E.S.I.C’s employees and Hannibal’s soldiers !

It was 1990. A woman employee of the Bureau of Indian Standards reached the bus stop at about 7.45 am in Noida Sector 22. Her neighbour, a Section Officer of the ESIC, was standing there already, waiting for bus to go to his office. The offices of both were and are in the same locality, in New Delhi-2.

That ESIC officer, a man from Orissa, was a very sincere and punctual officer. He was very surprised to see that woman employee of the BIS at that time of the day there. He asked her where she was going. She replied that she was going to her office. That reply stumped the ESIC officer. “Madam, how come, so early? You used to move for office only at about 11 am everyday!”. That woman poured out her grievance. “What to do, Sir? One man has come to our office as DG. He is from military. Totally merciless. He is marking our absence and debiting our leave accounts everyday. How much can I lose? It is very difficult for me to go to office so early. Still, I have to go…..”. She went on justifying her priorities and scolding the new unsympathetic Director General stating that he did not understand the problem of womenfolk who had to look after all the house-hold chores.

Yes. The BIS got Lt. Gen. H. Lal, a Param Vishisht Seva Medalist, as its Director General. He studied, for a few days, the situation prevailing in the BIS and diagnosed the problem. He chalked out his own plan to bring standard to the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The PVSM with perseverance

He did not announce anything to anyone. He simply went around the office one morning, 15 minutes after the commencement of office hours, and collected all the attendance registers from every section in person. He marked the absence of everyone very coolly and sent the attendance register back. The first day there was shock, utter shock among the members on the Staff. The second day their shock continued. The third day, the Union represented, through other officers, for ignoring this ‘minor issue’. But, the military man said that it was not a minor issue. He said, “You are paid for your presence as well as work, here in this organisation. I am not asking you to work. I just ask you to be present during the working hours. There is no concession on this score”. He was very firm. He demonstrated his firmness even more when the Union chose to demonstrate its own power. He did not relent.

Attendance Registers were continued to be seen by him without any let up. He demonstrated his perseverance in a remarkable manner. By the end of the first month, the staff members realised that they could not change the attitude of their DG. They had no other option but to change their own attitude. The second and third month, they tried to change their attitude. They took steps to manage their personal affairs in such a manner that they would be on time for office. The DG pressed on with the monitoring of attendance register for a continuous period of six months. Yes, it was true. By then, it became the habit for the employees of the BIS to reach the office in time, and to remain in the office upto 5.30 pm.

It was on the first day of his seventh month in office that Mr. Lal convened a meeting of officers and staff of every section separately and reviewed the work done by them. As sitting in the office had, already, been made a habit for the officials, it naturally showed up in their performance too. A remarkable attitudinal change, made possible in every employee, because of pressure not from within but from outside – from the boss.

Mr. Lal, a PVS Medalist, redeemed the BIS, really. He brought the BIS back on track, within a period of six months.

Mr. Sahib Singh Verma’s surprise visits

When Mr. Sahib Singh Verma was the Minister for Labour, he visited the offices under his Ministry at the commencement of office hours and closed the entrance door before verifying attendance. This had a dramatic effect on the punctuality in offices in New Delhi, including the offices of the ESIC. But, that is not the case with the other offices of the ESIC in the Regions. The need not only for punctuality and but also for service with a sense of compassion, devotion and outreach is felt more in the field offices and medical institutions of the ESIC.

The incident in the BIS does, therefore, have close relevance to the offices of the ESIC.

The employees of the ESIC grumble and assemble and resolve to agitate. But, they must know that they have to rise up and fight not against the rulers but against the impression prevailing among the insured population about the nature of service provided by the officers and staff members. Because, if someone like the Finance Minister could point out fingers against the ESIC and try to convince the public that the ESIC could be dispensed with, these employees cannot just blame the Minister for it. They have to blame themselves too. That there happened many things at the top in 2009 and 2010 might be true. But, the ignorance and arrogance of many employees of the ESIC at various other levels including the lower levels of the organisation were and are also the contributing factors to create a sense of apathy and antipathy among the beneficiaries against the ESIC.

When things went wrong in the BSNL, the employees’ unions and the officers associations assumed ownership of the organisation and started questioning the decision-making process. A new sense of commitment could be seen among the employees there. But, the employees unions and the officers associations of the ESIC choose to remain indifferent, although there is more reason for them to fight for the organisation and save it from the predators.

Beveridge, needed forever

ESIC is a well-conceived concept to reach out to the masses. The need for the ESIC , the social security measures provided by it, would be felt by the society as long as the world exists. A cursory reading of the report of Sir William Beveridge would testify to this fact. That is the reason his report, a charter to protect the humanity from the pains caused by undeserved wants, is called as a monumental document. Social Security has, throughout the world, achieved successfully what Communism could not achieve.

It gives an opportunity to the employees of the ESIC to make themselves useful to the humanity. But, the imperious behaviour demonstrated by the employees, coupled with their indifference, indolence and ignorance, when approached by the beneficiaries would result in creating very serious antagonism among the public. That situation is tailor-made to make it easier for the people like Mr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Modi to dump the ESIC and give noble impressions to their ignoble intentions to sell the nation to private players.

The employees of the ESIC stand warned. A precedent has already been created by the BJP regime by selling a government department to a rich businessman. VSNL, a profit-making body, was sold to Tatas. The rulers would, therefore, not wink an eye if the situation created by the employees of the ESIC help them to dump the ESIC in favour of private players by diluting its provisions.

If the role of ESIC in the nation-making is thus diluted, it will not be only because of the pro-rich attitude of Mr.Manmohan Singh and Mr. Modi but also because of the incorrigible attitude of many employees of the ESIC. It will be of no use to cry later without cultivating a little sense of happiness in doing real service to the people.

The Good and the Bad

There are many honest officers, sincere staff members at all levels, empathic doctors and nurses in the ESIC who provide yeoman service to the beneficiaries. But, the effect of their services pale into oblivion when contrasted with the multitude of self-seeking officials who do not care to be there in the organisation for rendering service to the public.

Yet, it becomes the duty of the honest officials also to fight against their colleagues who bring disrepute to the organisation. Because, the attitude of such blacksheep does affect, ultimately, the honest officials too. The sincere officials are required to hang their head in shame when the organisation is criticised for the wrongs committed by the mischievous.

The utterances of the Finance Minister on the day of Budget must awaken the blacksheep, at least now, to change their attitude. The honest employees of the ESIC at every level must fight against the dishonest among them with all seriousness it deserves.

ESIC employees must emulate Hannibal’s soldiers

When Hannibal had to fight his first battle with the fearsome Roman legions, multifold stronger in number, in Northern Italy, he had to bring his worn-out men alive. He told his frightened and diffident soldiers that they were many miles away from home, on hostile territory with nowhere to go. “It is either freedom or slavery; victory or death”. He advised his soldier to fight with all intensity and ferocity that they would win the mightier and stronger Roman army. Hannibal’s soldiers did so and won the Romans. (33 Strategies of War – Robert Greene).

Similar is the case today with the ESIC employees. Here is the opportunity for them to turn a new leaf and emulate the soldiers of Hannibal and work with devotion and compassion towards the beneficiaries that the beneficiaries themselves would realise the importance of the ESIC as a public organisation and resist the attempts of the rulers to dilute the beneficial provisos of the ESIC.

It is time for the ESIC employees to demonstrate their potentials. It is an opportunity for them to vindicate themselves. Will the ESIC employees sit up, take notice and rise up?

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