Workers in the unorganised sector have been periodically demanding a universal pension, minimum wages

Despite several protests and demonstrations, workers in the unorganised sector continue to struggle without a monthly pension which would allow them to lead a dignified life.

Several organisations have been periodically fasting to emphasise the need for a universal pension for, among other groups, the transgendered, domestic help and construction workers.

On October 9, domestic workers staged a protest demanding the fixing of minimum wages, maternity leave and a weekly-off. On October 2, another group of casual labourers held a dharna demanding retired workers be paid half of the minimum monthly wages as pension.

M. Karuna, convenor of MNERGA–Watch TN, says the pension was calculated by taking the minimum wages as Rs. 150 per day. “There are eight different pension schemes with different eligibility criteria, but often a large portion of workers in the unorganised sector are left out, even if these schemes are put in place in association with Central government programmes,” he said.

At least 64 different kinds of jobs are listed under the unorganised sector and a law is required to ensure minimum wages are determined, says R. Suseela of National Federation of Indian Women.

Meanwhile, the Transgender Rights Association is seeking pension for all transgenders above the age of 40 years. Transgender R. Jeeva says the social welfare department has issued a government order stating they would receive pensions. There are over 1,000 transgenders who qualify for the pension but not all of them receive it. “Three hundred transgendered persons applied and only 50 were declared eligible. Even they received the money only for three months, until April. The pension helps in buying medicines and ensures us a livelihood,” she said.

According to Ms. Suseela, the ‘Amma Thittam’ has benefitted many in places where the scheme has been implemented. But it was important to enact a law that would address the lakhs of unorganised workers in the State, she said.

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