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Wage relief for those who lost jobs in lockdown

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(This story originally appeared in on Oct 16, 2020)

NEW DELHI: The government is launching a campaign, Atal Beemit Vyakti Kalyan Yojana (ABVKY), to ensure that Employees’ State Insurance Corporation-registered workers who had lost their jobs during the lockdown can claim of 50% of their wages for up to three months as unemployment relief even if they have resumed work. ESIC is going to deploy its Rs 44, 000 crore kitty with a formal notification on Friday.

“So far the response has been weak but we expect it to pick up. We are planning to advertise and reach out to more beneficiaries,” a labour ministry official told TOI.

The move is seen as an outreach to those displaced by the lockdown and blunt the criticism that the government did not take care of migrant and factory workers, who were the worst hit. Sources said that the documents will need to be submitted physically as the beneficiaries are not linked to Aadhaar.

The benefit can also be availed by ESIC members who may lose jobs in December.

Ministry sources said the scheme has started to receive nearly 400 claims daily since the labour ministry and ESIC decided to extend ABVKY last month, when it also decided to bump up the rate of unemployment relief from the existing 25% of wages to 50% of wages.

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In light of the job losses during coronavirus, the government has also relaxed eligibility conditions for insured workers.

While unemployment benefits could only be available following submissions through employers, the labour ministry has now permitted claims to be made directly to designated ESIC branch office. ESIC services nearly 3.4 crore families through medical insurance cover and cash benefits to almost 13.5 crore beneficiaries.

Under the new social security code law, the government has also decided on extending ESIC services to all 740 districts of the country, for which labour ministry officials said they have tied up with hospitals empanelled under the Ayushman Bharat scheme and 3rdparty service providers.

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