The Rajasthan state government is in the process of enacting a welfare law for gig workers which should be widely welcomed. Basically this law proposes that a one per cent cess should be levied on each transaction involving gig workers (such as a taxi ride or food delivery) and the amount of this cess would then be deposited in a fund for many-sided welfare activities relating to gig workers. Thus if, for example, a transaction has involved INR 200, then INR 2 too will be deposited in the welfare fund. Keeping in view the very large number of such transactions it is expected that a lot of welfare funds will accumulate each year in the fund.
This fund will be administered by a gig workers’ welfare board with representatives of workers, employers, government and civil society. The board will decide how to allocate the fund to various welfare activities like help to accident victims, pensions, educational support for children etc.
To avail of these benefits gig workers in the state will be registered. Action will be taken against these employers who violate these terms, but actually employers should welcome this law as this does not impose financial burden on them and instead finances welfare of workers from cess imposed on consumers. Not only in India but in other countries also the Rajasthan law may get much attention in terms of finding means of taking several welfare benefits to gig workers.
It is a workable law and essentially follows the precedent set by laws enacted for construction workers at national level and even before this for head-loaders in Maharashtra.
It is hoped that this law for gig workers will benefit nearly 250,000 such workers in Rajasthan. At the national level, the number of gig workers has been estimated at close to 8 million or so. These workers are mostly denied rights and welfare benefits and hence any such law should not just be welcomed but should also be followed up by other states.
At the same time there is a need to take a hard look at why the benefits of similar legislation for construction workers enacted way back in 1996 have fallen far short of expectations of workers. Actually at several places the implementation of this legislation has been deteriorating instead of improving in recent times.
This has happened despite the fact that the Supreme Court had given detailed directions for better implementation of this legislation a few years back. However before this could be ensured, the new labor codes came along and this created a lot of confusion regarding how the two construction worker laws of 1996 will be implemented in the new conditions. The overall result has been that the collections in most state welfare boards fell much short of expectations and the use of collected funds according to right priorities left much to be desired.
One hopes that such confusions will be avoided in the context of the new law being enacted in Rajasthan and at the same time wider, national-level efforts will also be taken to ensure that the laws for construction workers are implemented in the right spirit.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man over Machine, Navjeevan and When the Two Streams Met.