With nearly six months left for the Assembly elections, the Rajasthan Government is working overtime to deliver the Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023, which has stringent provisions against errant aggregators, including barring them from operating in the State.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced his government’s intentions to bring the Bill in his Budget speech in February.
The draft Bill, a copy of which was accessed by The Hindu, envisages a Rajasthan Platform-based Gig Workers Welfare Board that will function like a mothership for over three lakh persons employed with various online service providers in the State. It will design welfare policies and hear grievances of the workers hired on a piece rate basis.
“All platform-based gig workers registered with any platform shall be automatically registered with the board irrespective of the duration of their engagement with the platform. The board shall generate a unique ID for every platform-based gig worker registered with one or more aggregators in the State,” the Bill states. This unique ID will be valid for three years.
Mr. Gehlot had announced ₹200 crore seed fund for the board to begin its work. But importantly, the Bill gives powers to the board to decide the quantum of cess that every aggregator will have to pay towards this social welfare corpus. This cess shall be a percentage of every transaction that takes place on the platform.
A platform that flouts the provisions of the Bill, that includes integrating the data of the gig workers employed with the board and sharing data of every transaction that takes place on their platform, can be fined up to ₹10 lakh for the first contravention and up to ₹1 crore for subsequent ones. The Bill also empowers the board to recommend suspension of operations of the errant aggregator temporarily or permanently in the State.
The draft Bill that is with the Law department currently, will be put in public domain soon inviting feedback.
According to informed sources, so far, other than food delivery platform Swiggy, there have been no queries from any other aggregator, who all are keenly watching the developments that could curtail their freedom of operation.
The draft Bill is being touted as a first of its kind in the country. There are several labour laws both regulated by the Centre and the State, unfortunately, as State’s Labour Department Secretary Vikas Bhale explains, since most of the aggregators have labelled the gig workers as “partners” there is no employee-employer relationship. “This mechanism works well for the aggregating platforms since it absolves them of practically any responsibility of providing social security and other benefits to the workers,” Mr. Bhale said. The welfare draft Bill, Mr. Bhale said, was set to change this equation. Other States, especially neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, has expressed interest in the legislation.
With very little time left before the model code of conduct kicks in for the elections and expected resistance from the aggregators, the State administration is working on a tight schedule.
The three lakh gig workers on average are between the age-group of 20-35 and politically the Congress Government is hoping to cement its approval in this segment. Though, by leaving it up to the board to draw specific social welfare policies for the gig workers, the draft Bill currently doesn’t offer anything tangible for the workers to look forward to.