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Domestic workers now covered under health insurance scheme

June 23, 2011 07:06 pm | Updated June 24, 2011 02:42 am IST - NEW DELHI:

There is good news for 47.50 lakh domestic workers in the country: they will now be entitled to health insurance cover under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY).

The extension of the medical insurance scheme, approved by the Union Cabinet here on Thursday, envisages smart card-based cashless health insurance cover of up to Rs. 30,000 under any empanelled hospital anywhere in the country.

The RSBY would be extended to registered domestic workers in the 18-59 age group, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after the Cabinet meeting. The majority of them were women.

Earlier this month, the Cabinet had approved extension of the scheme to 55 lakh beedi workers by 2013-14.

The funds for the scheme would be allocated from the National Social Security Fund for Unorganised Workers. The premium will be shared by the Central and State governments in the ratio on 75:25. In case of North East Region and J&K, the ratio will be 90:10.

The estimated expenditure to be borne by the Centre will be Rs. 29.70 crore in 2011-12, Rs. 74.25 crore in 2012-13, Rs. 148.50 crore in 2012-14 and Rs. 297 crore in 2014-15.

Domestic work form one of the largest sectors of female employment in the urban areas. Domestic workers are unorganised and the sector remains unregulated and unprotected by labour laws. These workers come from vulnerable communities and backward areas and most of them are illiterate, unskilled and do not understand the urban labour market.

The beneficiaries would have to get identification certificates from any two of the four institutions -- the employer, resident welfare associations, registered trade unions or the police, Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said.

The upper limit of the annual contribution would be Rs. 750 per beneficiary — of which the Centre would bear Rs. 565 — and another Rs. 60 for the smart card, she said. A maximum of five members per family would be covered.

The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana provides for smart card based cashless health insurance cover of Rs. 30,000 annually to below poverty line (BPL) workers (a unit of five) in the unorganised sector and is being presently implemented in 25 States and Union Territories. The scheme has since been extended to building and other construction workers registered with the welfare boards constituted under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, street vendors, beedi workers and such Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme who have worked for more than 15 days during the preceding year.

Asked whether a law would be brought to protect the rights of domestic helps as suggested by National Advisory Committee Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Kharge said, "the issue [of making a law] came up recently. As of today, we are extending the benefits of an existing programme to domestic workers".

Mr. Kharge said a task force, constituted in December 2009, had recommended among other things the extension of RSBY to domestic workers.

The extension of the scheme would not only provide them insurance benefits, but also help in preventing their exploitation, Ms. Soni said. It would also lead to registration of workers and placement agencies.

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