Country Study: India

Overview

The India country reports and capacity building activities were conducted by SEWA in 2014.

The project created a platform to initiate a dialogue to build an inclusive law for the informal economy workers in a participatory process with the workers themselves. Home-based workers, street vendors, and domestic workers participated in the project.

Home-based Workers

For some groups of home-based workers there are protective laws. For example, beedi workers are protected by The Beedi & Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966, and The Beedi and Cigar Workers Welfare Act. SEWA had to fight the long legal battle to procure the Provident Fund under this Act for its Beedi Workers members. However, most home-based workers – own account and piece rate workers – remain unprotected despite years of struggle by SEWA.

Street Vendors

In 2013, after years of struggle by SEWA and NASVI, the Indian Parliament passed a national law, The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2013, to protect the rights of traders and regulate street trading in India. An important provision in this national law is the obligation to set up Town Vending Committees in each municipality with 40 per cent representation on each committee. Implementation is the challenge as this has to be done at the local level.

Domestic Workers

Some steps have been taken by the Government of India in recent years to provide legal protection and social security to domestic workers. They have been included in The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act (2008) and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (2013). There have been other measures like the extension of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) to domestic workers and the notification of Minimum Wages by a few State governments. However, there is no comprehensive national legislation to protect this growing sector.

Several unions and MBOs in the country have created a National Platform for Domestic Workers in order to demand comprehensive legislation for domestic workers.