Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

A card can make U-WIN

In order to bring the unroganized sector workforce under the ambit of social security and welfare system of the government, the Unorganized Workers Act has laid down the process of providing every worker with smart cards. This card, which will issue a unique identification number to every labourer, will help them avail the multiple benefits of health, insurance, banking and pension. This card will replace the existing ones which have been issued under Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojana (RSBY). Creating a mechanism for efficient delivery of welfare benefits to the poorest of the poor and backward section is the foremost responsibility of the welfare state within a democratic system. In such context, every effort that makes use of available resources is commendable. However, what begets argument is the lack of cognizance of the state in taking account of the needs of the beneficiary. Does the beneficiary needs to be a smart card holder ? Do we need to make the beneficiary undergo a knowledge building process of using information technology to avail the guaranteed welfare schemes? More importantly, the pertinent question is are we really making the neglected sections of society a part of development process through such initiatives?

So what is this particular initiative-under the Unorganized Worker Social Security Act of 2008, as per its guidelines, a nationally portable smart identity card shall be issued by the District Administration of each state, which in turn will provide access to all social security schemes anywhere anytime. The Ministry of Labour & Employment (MoLE) being the administrative Ministry is mandated to provide technical support and guidelines for conduct of registration of unorganised workers and issuance of social security cards to each of them.The proposal was that all workers must get three things — health insurance, pension and disability assistance. This card will allow workers to self-certify that they are unorganised sector workers, and get these benefits through a portable card.

Probing further into this initiative, in order to put the process in practice on ground, enrolment camps will be organised by district administration considering the fact that location of such camps will be at places where online Aadhar authentication is possible. Enough Information-Education-Communication (IEC) would be carried out to spread awareness among the Unorganised Workers. Each camp will have two sets of counters: one for enrolment/registration and printing of cards and other for UIDAI for Aadhaar.

Thus, each of the 640 districts (Census 2011) will conduct awareness camps to educate the workers on the use and benefit of the smart card called U-WIN (Unorganized Worker Identification Number) and simultaneously, carry out registration process. This implies the use of information technology (IT) as a development tool, to bridge the gap of inequality of access to resources. There is a constant grappling with the issue of making IT can be made direcly relevent to the disempowered masses. The development paradigm has created a dichotomy in terms of use of modern technology by the urban and rural India. The value addition to the 8.33 million rural population (Census, 2011) from the use of IT is subject of scutiny. Nonetheless, assuming that the use of IT in this initiative will reap wonders, we consider the numbers of such unorganized workers.

Estimated number of Informal/Formal Sector Workers in 1999-2000 and 2004-05 (in million)

Category of workers


Informal Sector (%) Formal Sector (%) Total (%)
Informal workers 391.73 (99.6) 28.91 (46.2) 420.67 (92.3)
Formal workers 1.42 (0.4) 33.65 (53.8) 35.03 (7.7)
Total 393.15 (100.0) 62.56 (100.0) 455.7 (100.0)


Informal workers 339.71 (99.5) 23.04 (42.0) 362.76 (91.5)
Formal workers 1.79 (0.5) 31.85 (58.0) 33.64 (8.5)
Total 341.50 (100.0) 54.89 (100.0) 396.4 (100.0)

Source: Report of the Committee on Unorganized Sector Statistics, National Statistical Commission (2012)

In order to provide “smart” cards to 391.73 million workers is a gigantic task. A pilot project was launched in Gujarat in December 2014. The state government of Gujarat had announced that benefits under 20 schemes, including education aid, maternity benefits, funeral benefits, accident group insurance scheme and housing, would be routed through the cards. In wake of the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 the State has framed rules, constituted the State Welfare Board etc. to provide social security to all unorganized workers including construction workers in the State. It was planned to register at least, 1000 unorganized workers in each Taluka by 25th December,2014. It was decided to have massive registration campaign in all the 33 districts of the State on 25th December, 2014 and to provide them with U-WIN number (Unorganized Worker Identification Number) and benefits under the various social security schemes to these registered unorganized workers. Till date, 24 thousand labours have been given UWIN card and 18,519 given kit.

All seems good with the process except for the fact that it remains silent on how to mobilize the entire unroganized workforce into believing that another card will resolve their issues. With the existence of Adhaar card and RSBY card, U-WIN can create a burden on the benficiary into understanding what nee number is he/she being assigned and what benefit it will give. The unorgnized workforce consists of agricultural labourers, bonded labourers, migrant workers, contract workers and casual labourers. Each category has dedicated a Act and associated scheme along with the existing scheme for the unorganised sector in totality. Does the availability of a number solve the issue of access to benefits and social security. It might be argued that Adhaar card has been made mandatory for access to various government services including banking, insurance and pension. Then it can be coutered as to why not use the existing UID (Adhaar) number for the same towards unorganised workforce. This is while assuming that the rural population is having an Adhaar card and making effective use of it. Another assumption being made here is the presence of IT infrastructure in rural areas where majority of the unorganised workers are present as agricultural labourers and/or casual labourers.

Thus we are moving forward with too many assumtions, too many for discomfort. The welfare state is yet to identify the needs of the intended beneficiary and how he/she wants the service delivery process to be. Being a “smart” card holder would probably be the last of the priorities on the mind of an informal sector worker. If we really want to make the disempowered empowered and make the neglected a part of mainstream society, make that disregarded person a winner, having a “smart” card might not be one of the best solutions.

Aritra Chakrabarty

Aritra Chakrabarty

Anchor, SHRAM (Till Dec 31st, 2014)

As a social researcher, I believe in knowledge-based policy action. With a postgraduate degree in Development Studies, I've been associated with social issues in my professional space. As a part of SHRAMIC initiative, was involved with data creation, sourcing of resources that will become the knowledge bank of this project.
Aritra Chakrabarty

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2 Responses to “A card can make U-WIN”

  1. […] for the purpose of creating better welfare and support mechanisms. For migrant labourers, procuring an identity card is of primary importance to avail of government benefits–yet ‘identity’ in terms […]

    • Aritra Chakrabarty says:

      It is a paradoxical situation wherein we have to create identity for a person who is a resident citizen of the welfare state. Moving beyond that, identity card is of little use unless the worker is oriented of its importance. Even if the worker is made aware, he/she will have little use of it because he is dependent on the middleman. Government benefits need mechanism primarily and not identity card for delivering welfare. For that matter, existing identity instruments can suffice.

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