For the Indian farmers, it is hoping against hope -- Daily Mail picture
Some days back I read an interesting news report. A national general secretary of a political party told the striking sweepers in Punjab that BSP supremo Ms Mayawati had regularised the services of the safai karamcharis in Uttar Pradesh. They are now provided with a basic salary of Rs 18,500 per month. This is certainly good news. A few weeks later, the ruling UPA Govt announced a 10 per cent hike in dearness allowance (DA) for 5 million central govt employees and another 3 million pensioners beginning Jan 1 2014. This was a second double digit hike in a row. It is expected that this time, 50 per cent of the DA hike will be merged with the basic pay. Another good news.
It doesn't end here. A front page news report in Economic Times Feb 3 2014 (Aam Aadmi out of hand, UPA to now woo workers http://bit.ly/1im7A0s) says more sops are likely to be showered on workers in the days to come. Call it election bonanza, but the fact remains that several employment benefits like gratuity, provident fund, bonus and healthcare are now being enhanced. What is on the card includes: 1) Minimum monthly pension of Rs 1,000 for 8.87 crore EPF account holders 2) Raising monthly ceiling for mandatory PF contributions from Rs 6,500 to Rs 15,000 3) Salary ceiling for gratuity contributions may be raised to Rs 15,000 a month 4) Parity in benefits for contract workers and regular employees 5) Minimum guaranteed bonus for workers even if the employer is making losses.
In addition, the report says the ceiling cap for Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) health benefits is also expected to be increased from the existing Rs 15,000 per month to Rs 25,000 per month. This would bring an additional 5 million employees to be the beneficiary of the health security. For the workers in unorganised sectors, constituting 82 per cent of the total workforce of about 40-crore plus, the plan is to increase the health insurance slab to Rs 30,000 per household. Yes, this too is good news.
I still don't have the figures for how much the financial burden would be on the State exchequer. But I am sure you will agree that it would be quite substantial.
Now while all kinds of financial sops are being thrown at the employees and no one is cribbing about the fiscal deficit anymore, I wonder why no one is talking of the dire need to provide immediate financial help to country's 60-crore farmers (which effectively comes to 9.5 crore families). When it comes to farmers, Govt says it can't provide any financial support to such a large population. And that makes me ask a question: Are farmers the children of a lesser god?
Further reading: Farmers need direct income support