The allocations to the Labour Ministry and its social security schemes saw a decrease in the Budget and the trade unions alleged that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has not addressed the issue of long-term employment and creation of quality jobs. The allocation to the Ministry of Labour and Employment decreased from ₹16,893.68 crore in the last Budget estimates to ₹13,221.73 crore in 2023-24.
Funds for several social security schemes for workers decreased in this Budget. The Bima Yojana for Unorganised Workers, which saw an allocation of ₹10 lakh in the last Budget, has been stopped. However, allocations to the Employees Pension Scheme (EPS), 1995, saw an increase. This Budget, the estimated amount for the scheme is ₹9,167 crore and in the last Budget it was ₹8,485 crore. The actual amount spent for the scheme in 2021-22 was ₹18,478.33 crore.
The allocation for Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana was significantly reduced. In 2022-23 Budget, the estimated amount was ₹6,400 crore. This year, it is just ₹2,272.82 crore. The allocation for Social Security Scheme for Plantation Workers in Assam remained at ₹60 crore. The Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan scheme got ₹350 crore in this Budget too. The Pradhan Mantri Karam Yogi Maandhan, which got ₹50 crore in the last Budget, received just ₹3 crore this time. The allocation for National database for Unorganised Workers was also reduced by ₹200 crore. Besides, ₹25 crore was allotted for ‘Coaching and Guidance’ for SC, ST and Other Backward Classes and National Career Services got ₹52 crore.
AITUC general secretary Amarjeet Kaur said the Budget addressed none of the real issues concerning people. “Trade unions have been demanding Old Pension Scheme, social security to all, pension to all, regularisation of schemed workers, minimum wages for workers of unorganised sector including the agricultural workers etc,. This is a Budget that leaves behind the interests of the nation, its 94% unorganised work force who contribute 60% of the GDP,” she said and added that the Budget has not addressed long term employment and creation of quality jobs.
“Eight million new job seekers enter the job market every year. Unemployment is at its peak of 34%,” she added. The CITU said the Budget has nothing for employment generation and support for the MSMEs. “It does not provide any relief in GST to the common people,” CITU general secretary Tapan Sen said.
Pro-government trade union BMS welcomed the direction of the Budget, but cautioned against the support to Artificial Intelligence (AI). It asked the Centre to establish a regulatory mechanism for AI. “It must specify areas where it can be used and where it should not be used,” BMS leader Ravindra Himte said. He said the Budget brought disappointment for EPS pensioners who are getting only ₹1,000 as minimum pension. “At least they could have been included in the Ayushman Bharat scheme,” he said.