No privatisation of ESI hospitals: Govt

New Delhi: Government today ruled out privatisation of ESI hospitals while making all attempts to modernise them and equip them with more manpower and instruments.

"Privatisation (of ESI hospitals) is not our intention. In several states, we have programmes to upgrade the hospitals," Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge told the Rajya Sabha.

He was replying to a discussion on the Employees' State Insurance (Amendement) Bill which was later passed by the House. The Lok Sabha has already passed the bill, which seeks to provide for medicare to unorganised sector workers, especially those below the poverty line.

The bill, proposes that the Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) should participate in the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana to cover BPL workers in the unorganised sector.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill said it also proposed to increase the age limit of dependents from 18 to 21 years and provide for claims for accidents occurring at work or while going to work.

The minister said the income ceiling for ESI coverage to workers has been increased from a monthly income of Rs 10,000 to 15,000 by amending the rules on May 1.

Kharge took the opportunity to list the work done by his ministry for the welfare of workers.

Earlier, R C Singh (CPI) said apart from Delhi and Uttar Pradesh there are no ESI dispensaries in rest of the country.

He said ESI hospitals urgently need upgradation and Government must fill up the huge vacancies of doctors, nurses in these hospitals. Mahendra Mohan (SP) said the conditions of ESI hospitals are bad.

R C Khuntia (Cong) said ESI Corporation has a corpus of Rs 19,000 crore yet workers are not getting proper treatment.

Pyari Mohapatra (BJD) and Tapan Sen (CPI-M) also participated in the discussion.