Jaipur. In a ray of hope for lakhs of individuals engaged in doorstep deliveries and cab driving, the state of Rajasthan has emerged as a frontrunner in identifying the challenges faced by platform-based gig workers and addressing their need for social security.
The Rajasthan government is poised to pass the Platform-based Gig Workers Registration and Welfare Bill, 2023 (GWB) a groundbreaking legislation aimed at empowering and securing social security for this workforce. As part of the legislative process, the government has invited public suggestions on the draft bill, with a deadline of July 7, encouraging stakeholders to actively participate in shaping the future of gig work.
India currently has an estimated 7.7 million gig workers, and this number is projected to increase to 23.5 million by 2029-30. These gig workers, due to the nature of their work conditions, often lack essential benefits such as health insurance, paid leave, job security, and even a legally drawn-up contract.
To date, no state in India has made significant efforts to enact legislation that provides social security coverage for the scattered workforce, which played a crucial role in the supply system during the pandemic in 2020. The absence of such legislation leaves gig workers and other informal workers without adequate protection and support in terms of social security benefits.
With an estimated 3-4 Lakh gig workers in the state, the Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers Bill holds immense potential to transform the gig economy landscape and provide a much-needed safety net for this growing workforce.
The GWB holds immense significance for gig workers engaged in delivering goods to doorsteps and providing transportation services. Once passed, this legislation will not only establish a robust legal framework for these workers but also ensure their protection and empowerment.
Gig workers in India face a multitude of challenges that hinder their economic stability and overall well-being. One of the primary concerns is the lack of social security benefits and financial protections. " Without any regulations, despite having formal employment contracts , we have no employer-provided benefits. Gig workers are often left without access to healthcare, pension schemes, and other essential safety nets. Additionally, gig workers are frequently subjected to low and inconsistent wages, making it difficult to meet our basic needs and plan for the future" says Pushpendra Singh Rathore, a senior delivery executive with Swiggy in Udaipur.
He asserts that the absence of a standardized regulatory framework had added to the vulnerability of gig workers, leaving them susceptible to exploitation and unfair working conditions. Moreover, gig workers often lack access to grievance redressal mechanisms, making it challenging for them to address issues related to non-payment, workplace safety, or other concerns.
The Mooknayak spoke to Santosh Poonia, Program Manager of Aajeevika Bureau, an organization committed to the cause of workers and migrant laborers in India. "The gig workers are put in a peculiar situation where they have no direct employee-employer relationship. They work on contracts and are referred to as delivery partners. However, we all know that in a business, partners have an equal position. But the platform-based gig workers, though called partners, have no say or decision-making role in the business. They cannot dictate their remuneration and are often exploited. They are neither partners nor laborers, and hence the labor laws are not applicable to them. The Rajasthan government's move to bring legislation is undoubtedly a great step that would pave the way for the inclusion of gig workers in the service sector."
Under the Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, gig workers are granted several important rights. They have the right to be registered with the Gig Workers Welfare Board upon onboarding for any platform work, ensuring their inclusion in the social security framework. Additionally, gig workers have access to a time-bound grievance redressal mechanism, allowing them to seek redress for any issues related to their benefits and welfare. Moreover, the bill promotes the active participation of gig workers in decisions affecting their welfare through their elected representatives, giving them a voice in shaping their own working conditions.
At the heart of the bill lies the creation of the Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers Welfare Board. Chaired by the state's labor minister, the board comprises representatives from key departments such as labor, information and technology, social justice and empowerment, transport, finance, as well as gig workers, aggregators, platform owners, manufacturers, and civil society. This diverse composition ensures that the welfare board considers all relevant perspectives and stakeholders in its decision-making processes.
The Board assumes a pivotal role in the implementation of the bill. Its primary responsibilities include registering platform-based workers, aggregators, and primary employers within the state. Furthermore, the board is entrusted with the task of devising and implementing comprehensive social security schemes for registered gig workers, encompassing areas such as accidental insurance, immediate assistance, medical emergencies, gratuity, social security, pension, insurance, and scholarships. The board is also mandated to facilitate accessibility to these schemes and engage in regular consultations with trade unions representing platform-based gig workers. The Chief Minister had in his budget speech announced a 200 crore rupees provision for the Gig Workers Welfare Fund.
While the introduction of the Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill is undoubtedly a significant milestone, its effectiveness in protecting and promoting gig working arrangements will depend on its implementation and the actual benefits provided to gig workers. There is a need for clarity regarding the details of the benefits that will be derived from the dedicated Gig Workers Welfare and Development Fund. Additionally, the bill may pose challenges for aggregators and platform companies, potentially increasing their liabilities and requiring them to share financial transaction details with the government.
Nonetheless, the Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill sets a powerful precedent for other states in India to follow, acknowledging the significance of social security rights for gig workers and their growing contributions to the economy.