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India

India launches e-portal to document informal workers

Those who register on the online database will get easy access to the government's social security schemes

India launches e-portal to document informal workers

Migrant workers wait during the Covid-19 lockdown to cross the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border at Ghazipur in May 2020. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

India’s federal government has launched the eSHRAM-portal, an online national database of unorganized workers, to help them avail benefits of government schemes.

Speaking at the launch ceremony on Aug. 26, India’s Labour Minister Bhupendra Yadav said the online portal will streamline and speed up the delivery of social security schemes being implemented by the central and state governments.

Workers who register on the online database will be issued an e-card with a 12-digit unique number, which will help them access the various social security schemes, he added.

The government had earlier missed deadlines for creating the database, inviting criticism from the Supreme Court. It now aims to register 380 million workers in unorganized sectors, such as construction laborers, migrant workers, street vendors and domestic and agriculture workers.

“As they say, better late than never. All those involved with the unorganized sector welcome this historic gesture,” Father Jaison Vadassery, secretary to the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ of India (CCBI) commission for migrants, told UCA News.

He recalled the plight of migrant workers across the country after a strict lockdown was imposed after the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. “The Supreme court had to intervene twice to remind the government of its duty to help the migrant workers during the lockdown,” said Father Vadassery, who is also a former secretary of the Indian bishops’ labor office.

India has a huge unorganized workforce that remains largely unregistered and unaccounted for

The e-portal will be made accessible to migrant workers through the common service centers established in various parts of the country.

A labor ministry official said the government will soon launch an awareness drive to alert and inform workers of the new online facilities.

India has a huge unorganized workforce that remains largely unregistered and unaccounted for.

K.R. Syam Sundar, an economist with the Xavier’s Labour Relations Institute in Jamshedpur, said workers in the informal economy are estimated to contribute nearly 50 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

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The exodus of migrant workers from several states during the Covid-19 lockdowns triggered a nationwide humanitarian crisis, with many choosing to walk back to their native places with their families in the absence of any transport.

On May 8, 2020, at least 16 migrant workers were mowed down by a freight train as they slept on railway tracks completely exhausted after having walked for days near Aurangabad city in the western state of Maharashtra. At least 100 others were killed in road accidents across the country.

Several studies have shown that India’s underdeveloped states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Rajasthan are the main sources of migrant workers, who are mostly employed in factories, construction sites, brick kilns, agriculture and domestic work.

They are denied basic entitlements including access to subsidized food, housing, drinking water, public health facilities, education and banking services. They often work in poor conditions devoid of social security and legal protection.

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