INDIA. Mumbai: The government of India has agreed to give uniform benefits of Provident Fund, Gratuity, and Pension by making shipping companies to give benefits under the Seamen’s Provident Fund Act 1966, thus giving tremendous relief to over four lakh seafarers of all ranks of Merchant Navy.
The above assurance was given by the Director-General of Shipping Amitabh Kumar in the 137 th meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Seamen’s Provident Fund held in Mumbai on January 11, 2021. As per the agreement, the seafarers of all ranks working on foreign-going vessels, inland ships, offshore vessels, tugs, cruise ships of Indian and foreign flag will get the uniform benefit of Provident Fund, Gratuity, and Pension.
Although the provident fund was covered under Seamen’s Provident Fund Act 1966, the amount of gratuity and pension was decided by bilateral agreement between the National Union of Seafarers of India(NUSI) and respective ship owners. Due to different norms, there used to be an anomaly in the gratuity and pension amounts, since the benefits referred from the ship to ship.
To overcome the above difficulties the NUSI led by its General Secretary-cum-Treasurer Abdulgani Y. Serang has been urging the Government of India for the last two decades to carry out necessary amendments to the existing legislation so that the seafarers are assured proper benefits. Eventually, nearly 25,000 seafarers submitted a petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, urging him to bring in uniformity in PF, Gratuity, and Pension. In response to the petition, the prime minister and Union Minister for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya agreed to their long-pending demand.
Since the seafarers were kept out of the purview of the Employees Provident Fund Act 1952,
The seafarers led by the NUSI had staged agitation outside Parliament in 1963. Eventually, the Seamen’s Provident Fund Act was enacted in 1966 exclusively for Merchant Navy. However, there were certain shortcomings in this act.
Established in 1896, the NUSI is affiliated to the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), London. It functions in coordination with the Maritime Union of India (MUI) and the Indian Seafarers Federation (ISF) on issues common to the interest of Officers, Petty Officers, and Ratings.