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The Mathadi Model and Its Relevance for Empowering Unprotected Workers

The idea of providing comprehensive social security benefits to unprotected workers has still remained an unsolved task for the government due to a number of reasons, from administrative and financial limitations, and scattered and biased nature of social security legislations in the country, to inadequate information available on the unorganised sector and lack of data. The relevance of the mathadi model of social security to casual and other workers in the present context is highlighted and inputs on adopting its good practices in the proposed code on social security are provided.

The term mathadi refers to the head-load labourers in the state of Maharashtra. A mathadi labourer is typically a daily wage labourer mostly involved in such work that requires physical labour. Conventionally, these labourers are included in the category of casual labourers by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) in its various surveys. So far, the casual wage labourers in both farm and non-farm enterprises are not covered under currently existing social security legislations in India. During 2017–18, it was estimated that a quarter of the workforce (that is, approximately 117 million workers) was usually engaged in casual work.

In a unique case, the mathadi workers in Maharashtra, along with the hamal1 and other manual workers, are organised under the “Mathadi Tripartite Boards,” which were set up in compliance with the Maharashtra Mathadi, Hamal and Other Manual Workers (Regulation of Employment and Welfare) Act, 1969 (henceforth referred as the Mathadi Act or the mathadi model). This act was
implemented in the state for regulating the employment of unprotected (or casual) manual workers in certain types of employment scheduled in it. There are 14 broad types of employment scheduled in the act in connection with manual operations including loading, unloading, stacking, carrying, weighing, measuring, and other similar works including work that is preparatory or incidental to such operations (GoMH 1969).2 The overarching objective of implementing the act was to make provisions for adequate supply of manual labour in scheduled employments, appropriate utilisation of available labour, providing better terms and conditions of employment, and assuring welfare, health and safety measures to the workers. Implementation of the act is monitored by mathadi boards. As of now, there are 36 mathadi boards all across Maharashtra. These boards limit the number of workers to be registered, to avoid the situation of unemployment (Fudge and McCann 2015).

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Updated On : 11th May, 2020

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