List of Contents
Source: Live Mint
Relevance: Social protection schemes protect the vulnerable sections of society. Exclusion from them increases the vulnerability.
Synopsis: Despite multiple laws and numerous judicial orders, a majority of unorganized-sector workers are excluded from schemes meant to protect them.
- Recently, India’s Supreme Court passed several orders on a suo moto writ petition on the misery of migrant labourers.
- The Court ordered the time-bound implementation of the One Nation One Ration Card (ONOR) scheme by 31 July 2021.
- The court had also ordered an update of the list of beneficiaries under the NFSA Act.
- Further, it has highlighted in detail that the problem is not the absence of legislation, but the way our schemes are being implemented.
- First, ONOR the flagship scheme of the government is faced with operationalization problems. For example, the failure of biometric identification, the absence of e-Point of Sale machines, and the ambiguity in entitlement across states.
- This has resulted in the exclusion of beneficiaries and hardship for those exercising their entitlement under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
- Second, exclusion errors under NFSA.
- Currently, the beneficiaries are decided based on population estimates of 2011 and need to take into account India’s increase in population.
- Based on Census 2011, the total number of eligible beneficiaries should be 813.5 million.
- However, actual beneficiaries stood at 805.5 million in May 2017, hat is 20 million less than the eligible count even by the Census 2011 estimates.
- Further, using population projections for 2021 suggests that around 100 million beneficiaries have been excluded.
- Three, large number of people being denied NFSA rations as there’s no mechanism to identify beneficiaries.
- The existing list has largely been derived from the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) survey conducted during 2011-12.
- While this survey is a better source than the earlier Below Poverty Line (BPL) census of 2002, its quality varies across regions.
- It is generally more robust in rural areas, but unreliable in urban areas.
- For instance, its methodology of beneficiary identification in urban areas is ambiguous and has large errors of exclusion.
- Fourth, exclusion errors due to the absence of updated survey data.
- NFSA’s original design required the SECC to be updated at regular intervals with full-scale surveys every five years.
- But given the government’s track record on statistical data and surveys, there is little likelihood of this happening.
Way forward: Universalize NFSA benefits for the next year.
- The manner in which various legislated provisions and schemes are implemented tends to exclude a significant section of India’s population.
- Hence, there is a need for laws on social protection that are universal and accessible to every worker, irrespective of place of residence or work.
- Such a framework for universal social protection should not just comprise a set of legislations, but also have the requisite flexibility and political will to be of aid to every citizen of the country at all times.