27 October 2010
New Delhi, India
The government is set to take another step towards extending free health cover to the vulnerable low–income earners that are above the poverty line in mathematical terms but are in need of protection from debilitating health emergencies.
Rickshaw pullers, taxi drivers, auto drivers and sanitary workers are next in queue, but it would take a while before these proposals are formalised, a government official has said.
"India’s domestic workers are not covered under any labour legislation and for the first time they are being made eligible for some social security cover," a labour ministry official told ET.
The RSBY has, so far, extended free health care up to Rs 30,000 annually to below poverty line, or BPL, families. And starting with street vendors and now domestic workers, the government has plans of bringing all vulnerable sections of the society under the scheme gradually.
"When we started off with the scheme four years back, many criticised it on the ground that it was only for BPL families. We told them that it was just the first step and now we are proving ourselves," the official said.
A report on domestic workers prepared by the task force set up by the labour ministry points out that most laws do not recognise domestic work as real work, and domestic workers as real workers.
Because of this, the existing labour legislations fail to include them in the categories of workers and some even specifically exclude them from labour legislations.
In fact, a study conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 65 countries revealed that only 19 of them have brought in laws or regulations specifically concerning domestic work.
Getting the scheme approved by defining domestic workers and approving funding is just one step towards providing them health security, the labour ministry official admitted, adding that it was now the responsibility of state governments to identify them and get them registered.
The RSBY entails cashless treatment up to Rs 30,000 annually to a family of five at empanelled government and private hospitals through smart cards.
The domestic workers, like BPL families, will not have to contribute at all to the insurance scheme except for Rs 30 as registration charges. The Centre will take care of three–fourth of the funds requirement, while states will have to foot the rest.