Karnataka Budget 2023-24: CM announces Rs. 4 lakh life & accident insurance policy for gig workers

Another promise delivered, govt. aims to address the persistent demands raise by the union, establish a social security net for gig workers

After launching and implementing the Shakti Scheme in Karnataka, allowing for free travel in buses for women and the transgender community, Karnataka’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has introduced another notable provision. On July 7, in the budget unveiling for the fiscal year 2023-24. CM Siddaramaiah had delivered on yet another pre-poll promise of his, as the budget now includes a provision for life and accident insurance, offering coverage of 4 lakh to e-commerce delivery personnel associated with renowned platforms like Swiggy, Zomato, and Amazon. The said announcement comes as a good news for gig workers, as the Karnataka government will entirely bear the cost of the annual premium of the free accidental and life insurance cover worth Rs 4 lakh.

In order to provide social security to the ‘Gig Workers’ in the unorganised sector, i.e., employed as full time/part time delivery personnel in e-commerce companies like Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon, etc., insurance facility of total of RS.4 lakh will be provided which includes, life insurance of Rs. 2 lakh and accidental insurance of 2 lakh. The entire insurance premium will be borne by the government,” announced Siddaramaiah, as reported by Livemint.

Through the inclusion of this provision in the Karnataka Budget, the government aims to address the persistent demands raise by the union representing these gig workers, concerning the informal and uncertain nature of their employment. The government recognizes the need to establish a social security net to support these workers.

According to the Labour Minister, Santosh Lad, an association of gig workers had submitted a request to the labour department to provide accidental cover for all the gig workers in the state, where there are over 2-4 lakh of them, as per estimates

Although the cost allocation is not clear, Lad said that more benefits were in the pipeline for the unorganised sector. “The gig workers’ association held a meeting with us requesting accidental cover. The e-commerce companies mostly do not cover the gig workers for accidental insurance. We are thinking of getting these gig workers a revenue model by constituting a transport board. As of now, the government has decided to provide them with an accidental cover,” he said, as provided by the Indian Express.

Who are these gig workers?

As defined by NITI Aayog, gig workers are individuals engaged in work that falls outside the conventional employer-employee arrangement. Understanding the unique challenges faced by this workforce, the government has taken this significant step to provide them with the necessary support and protection. A 2017 Ernst and Young study on the “Future of Jobs in India” even found that 24% of the world’s gig workers come from India.

Those employed as full-time or part-time delivery personnel for Swiggy, Zomato, Amazon etc are set to benefit from the insurance cover announced by CM Siddaramaiah in the budget presented. The cover comprises life insurance and accidental insurance of Rs. 2 lakh each.

What were the pre-poll promises made by the Congress Government to gig workers?

As reported by India Today, the gig economy employs over 2 lakh people in Bengaluru alone. The Congress party had announced its election manifesto for Karnataka on May 2, 2023, and made the following promises to the gig workers sector if voted to power:

  1. The party pledged to establish a “gig workers welfare board” with an initial funding allocation of Rs 3,000 crore.
  2. The party has also declared that a new, open policy will be implemented for hiring people through outsourcing, which will establish a minimum hourly wages for all gig and organised employees in the domestic and personal care, logistics, food delivery, e-pharmacy, transportation, and other pertinent industries.

Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with the gig workers before polls

Just a few days before the Karnataka Assembly elections, in the month of May, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had met with and spoken to some of the young gig workers about their jobs and their working conditions. As per media reports, Rahul Gandhi had had a candid conversation with gig workers and delivery partners of Dunzo, Swiggy, Zomato, Blinkit at the Airlines Hotel in Bengaluru. It had also been provided that Gandhi discussed the lives of delivery workers, lack of stable employment and rising prices of basic commodities.While there were doubts raised by many over the said meeting being a wooing tactic of the Congress government, CM Siddaramaiah has started giving teeth to the promises made.

Following the footsteps of Rajasthan

It is essential to note that the state of Rajasthan, also a Congress government led state, was the first state to announce a welfare board and separate fund for gig workers. In February, 2023, in the state budget 2023-24, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, had announced the enactment of the Gig Workers Welfare Act, establishment of a board and a welfare fund of Rs 200 crore in his government’s Budget for 2023-24. The said step was initiated by the CM to bring the gig workers in the state into the ambit of social security.

To protect them from harassment, I propose to bring the Gig Workers Welfare Act, under which, along with the formation of the Gig Workers Welfare Board, a Gig Workers Welfare Fund will be established with Rs 200 crore,” the chief minister had said in his Budget speech, as reported by the Hindu.

The said Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023 to be introduced by the Rajathan government envisages a “welfare board” that will design welfare policies and hear grievances of gig workers on a piece rate basis. While the specificities of the policies and how they might benefit the workers still remains unclear, the board is expected to work towards a social welfare corpus which will be financed by a cess on the digital transactions made by consumers on the platforms that utilise the gig worker labour.

A welcome move, yet caution in the air

As provided in a report of the Times of India, the Karnataka-based United Food Delivery Partners’ Union appreciated the move but said they need to be recognised as formal employees and not gig workers. As provided in the report of the India Express, B Hariprasad, a delivery agent with a food aggregator, was cautious in welcoming the announcement. “We have a health insurance cover of up to Rs 1 lakh. In case of any fatalities, our family is entitled to a sum of Rs 5 lakh. Even the premium is borne by the company. Although I haven’t used the health cover provided by the company yet, I definitely welcome the government’s move to give the accidental cover. However, it is to be seen whether the government consistently funds this scheme. Until then I would welcome this with a pinch of salt,” he said.

Anichur Haque, another delivery partner, said, “We already have a health insurance scheme of up to Rs 1 lakh, where we will be reimbursed for medical emergencies. But I will wait and watch how the government’s cover is different from that of the company’s and then apply,” as per the India Express.

Gig economy- unrecognised but ignored no longer

Swiggy has reportedly highlighted its “strong insurance benefits” for its delivery partners and their family on its blog, according to a report by the Indian Express. Reportedly, the food aggregator also offers a claim status tracking feature to assist the delivery partners in quickly and easily submitting insurance claims. The business gives network hospitals visibility and enables partners the chance to immediately change details. Additionally, it has been provided that a 24-hour helpline has been established for inquiries on switching from physical to online filing of documents. Reportedly, last year, Zomato had launched a pilot initiative to give its delivery partners and their dependents a health insurance cover of Rs 3 lakh.

As per a report of the Hindu, “gig” work has become a major source of jobs for youth in India and an estimated eight million people are employed in this industry built on the back of the smartphone revolution. Even though it has majorly remained an informal form of labour, the gig economy has been a beneficial outlet of employment, especially for the youth and migrant workers.

In the recent times, a growing number of flash strikes and protests have been put up by the gig workers, to shed light on their non-recognition as “workers”, lack of social security or related benefits, and harsh working conditions. In 2020, Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU) organised 26 days’ protest. “We got the attention of labour ministry and they sent notice to the companies. However, nothing much changed,” says Salauddin, the founder president of TGPWU, as provided by the Outlook. Primarily, the platforms though accepted their requests to keep them within their zones and not push them to travel beyond a certain distance, with time most of it went astray.

The Indian Federation of App-based transport workers (IFAT) in 2021 filed a writ petition to the Supreme Court asking for its intervention to provide the ‘rights to social security’ to these gig workers. It is essential to note that even after 3 consecutive notices, the platforms had not responded to the said notice.

Until now, the union government had only provided gig workers and unions with crumbs in the name of security and equality. Notably, in the 2020, the parliament had passed a Code on Social Security and proposed to offer social security and employment benefits to the platform workers, which remained in abeyance due to lack of concrete mandate to follow it. The implementation of these proposals is yet to be finalized, and the legal status of gig workers had remained uncertain.

While the aforementioned move by the Congress government in Karnataka has been a welcome move, the government needs to also address the other major concerns raised by the unions of gig workers, such as recognition as formal workers, as well as take steps to prevent the gig workers from facing gross exploitation and injustice. It is further crucial that provisions focusing on occupational safety and health, grievance redressal and dispute resolution, and skill development are also worked upon.

Other key points in budget

CM Siddaramaiah also informed that the state government will provide an additional financial aid of ₹4,000 to ₹5,000 a month to each household through the five poll guarantees promised in the Congress party’s manifesto. The five guarantees will cost the exchequer approximately ₹52,000 crore annually and are expected to benefit around 1.3 crore families.


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