23 July 2011
By Amiti Sen
New Delhi, India
The labour ministry, in separate Cabinet notes, has proposed to expand the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to include rag pickers, rickshaw pullers, taxi and autorickshaw drivers, miners, sanitation workers and toddy workers. "Our aim is to gradually cover all workers in the unorganised sector," a ministry official said.
The ministry circulates separate Cabinet notes for individual sectors to ensure that if differences crop up among Cabinet members on a particular sector, it does not hold back approval for other sectors.
ET had reported on Monday that the RSBY will also pay for doctor visits and medicines if pilots underway prove feasible. The RSBY provides Rs 30,000 crore annual health cover to a family of five against a token registration charge of Rs 30. States give 25% of the funds required for the scheme while the rest is given by the Centre.
The scheme initially covered all below-poverty-line families and later MGNREGA workers. Earlier this year, the Cabinet cleared a proposal to include domestic workers, beedi workers and street vendors as well. Labour minister Mallikarjun Kharge has asked state governments to expedite the process of putting in place implementing agencies. The Centre has already issued guidelines to states for identification of domestic workers, street vendors and beedi workers. In his budget speech this year, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had also announced that more sectors, including non-coal mining, would be extended RSBY cover.
A budgetary allocation of Rs 350 crore was made for the RSBY in the current fiscal, but the labour ministry wants an additional Rs 150 crore because of the increasing scope of the scheme. The ministry can also dip into the National Social Security Fund for which Rs 1,000 crore has been allocated.
Some trade unions argue that the government should not pick and choose sectors and, instead, provide a blanket social security cover to all unorganised workers. But the labour ministry says that providing universal health cover to 360 million workers at one go would be a tall order.
"We are taking a lot of care to ensure proper implementation of the scheme so that benefits reach the targeted groups and leakages are minimum," the official sa