Coir workers to get insurance coverage
Alappuzha, Feb 4 : The Central government is planning to extend to coir workers a number of welfare schemes including the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), ESI and EPF programmes, and the Skills Development Initiative, Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Kodikkunnil Suresh announced today.
Inaugurating the national seminars at Coir Kerala 2013, the Minister said steps were being taken to provide the benefits of RSBY, the much-lauded health insurance scheme for the poor, to workers in the coir sector.
The RSBY programme for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families provides hospitalisation coverage of up to Rs 30,000 with beneficiaries required to pay only Rs 30 as registration fee with the premiums paid by the central and state governments as part of their arrangement with insurers.
The scheme also pays out up to Rs 100 towards the cost of transport to the hospital.
Another plan under active consideration is to provide coir workers the benefit of the Labour Ministry's Skill Development Initiative, a programme designed to increase employability of individuals by providing them vocational training and to certify existing skills that will help them find jobs within the country and overseas.
'India is well placed to gain the ground that Chinese products are losing worldwide. If we invest in skills upgradation, new technology and product development in coir we can benefit immensely from this shift,' Mr Suresh said.
He urged coir agencies to take the lead in evolving projects focused on these areas. He also proposed the idea of Coir Parks along the lines of existing rubber parks to buy technology, make products and find export markets for them.
'The central government has allocated crores of rupees for the 'ASIDE' (Assistance to States for Infrastructure Development and Exports) scheme. Why don't we take advantage of this fund pool to create something like a Coir Park?' he said. 'They will not just bring in foreign exchange through exports, but will be huge employment generators. We can solve so many problems facing the industry through these.'
A time-based project is also being developed to include coir workers in the ESI and EPF schemes, he added.
He called on the state government to consider setting up a Coir and Natural Fibre design institute along the lines of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and the Footwear Design and Development Institute (FDDI) to focus on research and design aspects that will make coir products a la mode and trendy. 'Coir may be an ages-old product, but it has to keep up with the times. Designer products are the rage today, especially among the younger generation. If we can create high-quality designer products using coir, we have a ready market right here,' the Minister added.
He pledged every support from the central government and his ministry to all initiatives by the state government for the coir industry.
Planning Board Member G Vijayaraghavan, who delivered the keynote address at the inauguration, said need of the hour, is every possible support for the value chain that gets the raw material for coir factories, which means the workers at the lowest end.
'Incomes for these workers must increase at least two to three fold from the current levels; and not just from wages but from improved conditions that will raise productivity dramatically,' he said.