NATIONAL

Unemployment benefit scheme for labour from April

NEW DELHI, MARCH 17 . The Union Labour and Employment Minister, K. Chandrasekhar Rao, today announced an Unemployment Benefit Scheme for workers from April this year.

The scheme called the Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana, would be implemented by the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), he said while making a statement in the Lok Sabha.

The opening sentence of the Minister's statement — wherein he said the decision was taken under the "guidance of the UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, and the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh" — drew immediate protests from the Opposition and a counter from the ruling side. Demanding a clarification on Ms. Gandhi's status, V. K. Malhotra and Anantha Kumar of the Bharatiya Janata Party asked: "It is all right to mention the Prime Minister's name, but why is Ms. Gandhi being referred to.''

Mr. Rao said the workers losing employment on account of closure, retrenchment or permanent invalidity would be covered. They would be provided an unemployment allowance equivalent to about 50 per cent of their wages for a maximum six months. They, along with their families, shall also be eligible to receive medical care at the ESIC dispensaries and hospitals. The workers, however, should have to have contributed to the ESIC scheme for at least five years to become eligible for the scheme.

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