Rajasthan govt likely to pass law to protect gig workers’ rights

In a first for the nation, senior officials familiar with the plans said on Tuesday that the Rajasthan government is likely to propose a law during the state assembly’s budget session in January of next year to protect the rights of gig workers and make them eligible for various state welfare programmes.

Those who engage in any income-generating activity as independent contractors or on a temporary basis are referred to as gig workers. The majority of these individuals are employed by app-based companies, primarily Ola, Uber, Swiggy, and Zomato.

Data from the National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog indicates that as of June 2022, there were approximately 7.7 million gig workers, and that figure is expected to triple by 2029–2030. According to the sources mentioned above, the Rajasthan government predicts that there are between 225,000 and 270,000 gig workers operating only within the state, of whom 50,000 work for Ola and 35,000 for Uber.

One of the representatives said that in order to understand the advantages and difficulties faced by gig workers, the state government conducted a sample survey in June. The majority of workers reported that their occupations gave them freedom, enabled them to select the kind of work they preferred, and allowed them strike a balance between work and home life.

“However, the workers said that unlike regular jobs, they do not have any job security and facilities like health insurance. Moreover, they are not covered under labour laws and therefore, do not get institutional protection against exploitation. Their biggest concern was that there is no alternative source of income if they lose their job,” the official said, wishing not to be named.

The survey found that more than 50% of the gig workers did not have any kind of health insurance and about 40% were not covered under the state government’s accidental insurance. Most workers were from Rajasthan and some were from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, the official said.

Taking into consideration the findings of the survey, the Rajasthan government is planning to launch a portal where gig workers can register themselves to avail government benefits, the official added.

“The state may start a dedicated portal for the registration of gig workers in Rajasthan, which would act as a basis for providing social security measures to them. Further, the state government may collaborate with the companies of gig workers to provide the social security benefits on scale” a second official said, also wishing not to be named.

The second official said the state government wants to cover all gig workers, who are residentsof Rajasthan, under the state government’s Chiranjeevi health scheme that provides for annual health insurance worth ₹10 lakh for free. He added that workers in the state would also get protection, such as right to file complaint with labour department, under the labour laws, similar to the one given to contractual employees.

Through the proposed law, the government aims to define gig workers, their minimum wages and their rights, the first official said.

“There will be clarity on the legal provisions once the draft of the proposed law is final. We will be talking to their employers before finalising the draft of the law to ensure that it does not impact the gig economy of the state,” the official said.

The official said they will also see whether they can direct companies to provide the gig workers with health and accidental health insurance covers as done for regular employees.

“To us, there is not much difference between a gig worker and a contractual employee when it comes to work as both have to sign a contract with the employer,” the official said, adding that gig workers can be covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Risks guidelines of the government which provides for basic health facilities at the workplace.

He said, “Jaipur-based Uber driver, Vikas (40) hailed the government’s efforts to provide them with legal protection. “Earlier, companies used to charge 5% on every ride but now, they have increased their share to 25% and we cannot do anything. I hope the proposed law will address such issues too”.

Vikas said that since 2020, the number of drivers associated with Ola and Uber in Jaipur have doubled in the wake of rising unemployment. With so many app-based cabs available, he said, achieving an incentive target of minimum 100 rides a week is almost getting impossible. “Even after working for extra hours, I am earning less than what I earned before the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Rahul Gandhi, a Congressman, spoke about the difficulties gig workers experience at the Bharat Jodo Yatra last week in Rajasthan, and chief minister Ashok Gehlot promised to give them legal identification during the budget session.

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