PM MODI LAUNCHES JOB SCHEME FOR MIGRANT WORKERS
NEWDELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched a ₹50,000 crore rural jobs programme, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan aimed at creating livelihoods for thousands of jobless migrant workers who moved back from the cities to their home villages during the lockdown imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)
The make-work scheme, which will utilise existing rural infrastructure programmes, will offer 125 days of employment in 116 districts across six states that have witnessed large-scale reverse migration of workers from the cities, triggering a livelihood crisis. India’s jobless rate rose to over 20% during the lockdown in which period, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring of the Indian Economy.
The new scheme will fund 25 categories of public infrastructure facilities, such as laying fibre optic cable for rural internet, railway work, sanitation, waste management, poultry and farm ponds. Krishi Vigyan Kendras will train the workers in horticulture. Twelve ministries or departments—rural development, panchayati raj, transport, mines, drinking water, environment, railways, petroleum, new and renewable energy, border roads, telecom and agriculture— will participate in the scheme.
“Today is historic day as a massive campaign has kickstarted for the welfare of the poor, for their employment,” the prime minister said, launching the scheme via video conference. “It is our endeavour that through this campaign, workers are given work near their homes.”
The programme launched from Telihar village of Bihar’s
Khagaria district will cover 116 districts across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha.
Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said on Thursday that the scheme will not involve new budgetary allocation. The 25 schemes will be “front-loaded” or funded from current budgetary allocations, she had said.
Although there is no official data on the reverse migration sparked by the pandemic shutdowns, the finance minister had on May 14 allocated ₹3,500 crore for food aid to an estimated 80 million migrant workers. This is the only official estimate available for the number of workers affected by the pandemic.
According to chief minister Nitish Kumar, nearly three million migrant workers have returned to Bihar alone since the Covid-19 pandemic prompted the Centre to order a lockdown with effect from March 25.
During the launch, the PM interacted with several people who came back home to Bihar from places including Delhi, Gurugram (Haryana) and Rajasthan. Union minister of rural development Narendra Singh Tomar, Bihar CM and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath were among those who were present.
“It is of great necessity that high speed and cheap internet be provided in every rural household to help the youth and children,” Modi said. “...Hence the laying of fibre optic cable and provision of internet are also made a part of the Abhiyan.”
“So far, you were using your talent for the progress of the cities. Now you will help in the development of your villages, your neighbourhoods,” PM said.
Sitharaman had said that in 125 days, nearly 25 schemes will be brought together to reach saturation and will include the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, Jal Jeevan Yojna and PM Gram Sadak Yojna, among others.
Analysts say while an expansion of rural make-work projects is necessary to deal with the crisis, there are challenges in creating avenues for productive work. “I don’t think funding for such projects will be a challenge... However, finding useful projects that are productive enough and add value to the larger rural economy may be a challenge,” said Siraj Hussain, former Union agriculture secretary and a current visiting senior fellow with the think-tank ICRIER
Migrant workers queue up to board a special train to their homes, at the Old Delhi railway station on May 30. SANJEEV VERMA/HT PHOTO