Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to extend a welfare program to India’s 500 million workers as he bids for re-election in 2019, but he has limited time and resources to implement the ambitious plan.
PM Modi aims to initially provide three programs – old age pension, life insurance and maternity benefits, while leaving out unemployment, child support and other benefits – to most working citizens, government officials said, asking not to be identified as discussions are private.While it could translate into significant political gains to offset the challenges he faces in the lead up to the national poll, it is likely to add pressure on India’s fiscal deficit, already one of the widest in Asia.
The government has drafted a bill to extend benefits to all workers, including those in informal employment, by merging and simplifying 15 central labor laws into one. It plans to present the bill in July in the upcoming session of parliament, Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar told Bloomberg News, while remaining non-committal on a full-fledged roll-out before the national poll. bloomberg underperformer graph
The government will face difficulties to provide benefits from its current $376 billion budgetThe plan will be one of the largest mass benefit programs in the country and comes after the February announcement of a health protection plan targeted to cover 100 million poor families, dubbed ‘Modicare’.
The government plans to pilot the project in six districts in the months leading up to the national elections due in May next year, the officials said.
“Nobody can deny the importance of social security for the country’s working class and it is overdue,” said Satish Misra, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.