Big Schemes for Migrant Workers, With Greater Obstacles: Is Government Prepared?
On June 9, the Supreme Court issued a deadline for the Center, State, to facilitate the returning of migrant workers to their native homelands within a duration of 15 days. The Court has also directed the Central Government to make additional trains available for the transportation of migrant workers within 24 hours of states appealing.
The authorities have been directed to consider dropping of all charges brought against migrant workers for allegedly violating lockdown guidelines under the Disaster Management Act. The bench said to publicize the welfare and employment schemes for the workers adequately.
The Central, State Government, are carrying out and planning various schemes to support the migrant workers.
Plan of action to support migrant workers:
According to sources, the Government would be coming up with a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate the migrants in their home states and restore their income. A detailed list comprising the names of 116 districts having a maximum number of migrant workers has been made.
Another list focusing on the suitable employment of these workers, mainly containing the areas and schemes, is also being prepared. They are likely to be employed under the Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (MNREGA), and the Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign recently announced.
Welfare schemes like Food Security Act, Jan Dhan Yojana, PM Awas Yojana, Kisan Kalyan Yojana are also likely to be used. The PM’s Office is welcoming inputs from all other ministries.
Of the 116 identified districts, maximum are parts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh–32 and 31, respectively. They are followed by 24 in Madhya Pradesh, 22 in Rajasthan, 3 in Jharkhand, and 4 in Odisha. Narendra Modi’s ambitious program aims to ensure welfare and jobs for the millions of migrants who are returning to these districts.
The program would seemingly start from June and provide either jobs or cash to the migrant workers who lost their employment in the cities following Coronavirus lockdown. However, the plan may not entail any additional support from the exchequer.
Financial Aids by the Government:
The finance ministry led by Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package earlier in May to help individuals, businesses, and states restore the economy. She further declared that the Government would spend Rs 3500 crores on the ‘One Country, One Ration Card’ project for about 60 million migrant workers.
The Union Finance Minister had also said that the Prime Minister’s Housing Scheme would help construct small houses for the migrants, which they can afford at cheap rates. She urged the states to ensure the returning migrant workers to participate in the 100-day work with their wages increased.
An official said, “Millions of workers have returned to their villages, and not all of them will be interested in digging the earth under MGNREGS. They have a wide variety of expertise, and we need to address their needs through a bouquet of welfare programs, using MSMEs, and rural or agricultural schemes.”
The Central Government is facing vehement criticism from the opposition regarding its role in handling the migrant worker issue. The opposition parties are harshly condemning the Center for the sudden declaration of nationwide lockdown without giving adequate notice for the workers to return home, the subsequent negligence towards their plight, not taking enough actions to ensure their safe return, not taking responsibility for the en-route deaths of the migrants, the uncertainty of the future of the unemployed and shelterless workers.
The Government’s plan of recruiting the migrant workers in their home states could hamper the industries of states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat as they are extensively dependent on migrant laborers for running their construction and industrial activities. Karnataka had previously decided to cancel the special trains that would take the workers home, citing that the state will resume construction work. However, the decision got revoked following a widespread outage.
Nevertheless, the relief measures and economic packages announced are based on a long-term nature and won’t meet the immediate need of cash for the workers who lost their livelihood.
Setbacks faced by Government:
As per sources, the absence of a database containing bank account details and Aadhar number of migrant workers resulted as an obstacle for direct cash transfers to the workers. Although with the states battling with the economic crisis, closure of industries, job scarcity, the ultimate fate of the migrant remains uncertain.
Pressure on the states is likely to increase as most organizations are reducing their workforce leading to mass unemployment, and therefore, the return of unemployed migrants. As most migrants are unskilled laborers, it would not be easy to rehabilitate in alternate forms of livelihood.