Social security is that the protection that society provides to individuals and households to make sure access to health care and to ensure income security, particularly in cases of adulthood, unemployment, sickness, disability, work injury, maternity or loss of a breadwinner. The Covid-19 crisis has delivered to the forefront of the glaring loopholes within the Social Security measures in India.
Importance of Social Security
• It provides older people with income security in their sickness, unemployment and retirement years.
• Children enjoy Social Security programmes designed to assist their families deal with the value of education.
Constitutional Basis for Social Security in India
• Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the elemental right to life with basic dignity to all or any which incorporates all the rights that are essential to main human life during a civilized society, like food, clothes, house, medicine and education.
• Several Directive Principles of State Policy, enumerated in Part-IV of the Constitution, provide basis for several Social Security benefits. Exampleso Article 38 may be a mandate to the state to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people.
o Article 41 provides for right to figure , education and public assistance in certain cases like unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement.
o Article 42 stands for providing just and human conditions of labor and maternity relief.
Examples of Social Security measures in India:
• Enactment of National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 which entitles upto 75% of the agricultural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System.
• Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) aims to reinforce livelihood security in rural areas by providing a minimum of 100 days of guaranteed wage employment during a fiscal year to unskilled workers.
• Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 provides women within the organized sector with paid maternity leave of upto 26 weeks.
• Atal Pension Yojana encourages the workers in unorganised sector to voluntarily but their retirement
Issues highlighted by COVID-19 crisis in India’s Social Security measures
• Large exclusionary errors in schemes: a substantial section of needy population is overlooked of their purview within the process of enumeration, identification and authentication thanks to absence of strong, decentralized and responsive administrative capacity. for instance Prescribed ration under Food Security Act, 2013 couldn’t reach a serious section of individuals who were in dire need of food for survival, mostly thanks to the shortage of adequate documentation.
• Top down approach of policy formulation: Policymakers are often unaware of harsh ground realities that make hurdles in efficient delivery of intended benefits.
i. Poor assessment of the size and specific requirements of efforts needed during COVID-19 led to shortages and quality issues within the public distribution system.
ii. Directives for maintaining social distancing, so as to curb the spread of the disease, doesn’t factor ground realities that an outsized section of individuals dwells in congested and overcrowded homes where social distancing could be an unachievable idea.
• Ineffective implementation of schemes on ground level: this will be attributed to factors like limited administrative capacity, inadequate estimation of needs of vulnerable population, corruption at various levels, weak institutions, lack of coaching among stakeholders etc.
• Lack of awareness: Large sections of vulnerable population are unaware of rights and benefits bound to them under various Social Security schemes. Labourers engaged in formal work, who were recruited by middlemen, were unaware of their identification numbers or whether or not they received any contributions from their employers for his or her provident funds. Apathetic attitude towards marginalized sections: Vulnerable sections within the population find themselves at the margins of the priority of the governance ecosystem. The lockdown was declared hurriedly without proper assessment of its economic impacts migrant population. Factors like shortage of food and lack of affordable housing and unemployment benefits led to a mass exodus of migrant workers to their hometowns.