Covid-19 crisis: Adityanath says returning migrants are assets, not burden

We are engaging at least one and a maximum 10 additional workers in 9 million MSMEs in the state, says UP CM
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath says his government is trying to provide the 3.2 million migrant workers who returned home jobs in the state’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In an interview, Adityanath tells Sanjeeb Mukherjee and Archis Mohan that there is a fear that Covid-19 could spread rapidly as the lockdown is eased, but this can be prevented if precautions are taken and government guidelines followed. Edited excerpts:

Over 2 million workers have returned to UP. How do you plan to provide them gainful employment?

These workers are not a burden, but assets. So far, 3.2 million workers have returned by trains, buses and private means. Our government is working on a comprehensive action plan for them.

We are engaging at least one and a maximum 10 additional workers in 9 million MSMEs in the state. This can provide more than 10 million employment opportunities.

In addition, we have signed agreements with the Indian Industries Association, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Laghu Udyog Bharati and National Real Estate Development Council to provide jobs to 1.1 million workers.

What are your plans for economic revival?

In UP, 30 per cent of MSMEs’ products are exported, the highest in the country. The sector has suffered because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the Centre’s relief package will help strengthen it. Today, UP has the best investment climate, and we are talking to companies that wish to shift their base from China.

Von Wellx, a German footwear company, is going to invest in Agra. The company will initially put in Rs 110 crore. We are talking to many other firms as well.

What should be the contours of the lockdown going ahead?

There is a fear of Covid-19 spreading with the easing of the lockdown, but if we are able to follow the central government’s guidelines, the spread can be prevented.

Your government has made changes to labour laws. How will workers’ rights be protected?

The pace of industrial growth had slowed down a lot because of the coronavirus crisis. In view of this, our government abolished many labour laws. With the end of these laws, UP’s industry will gain momentum. Having said that, let me reiterate that the interests of workers have been taken care of. Our government is committed to protecting workers’ interests.

The UP government has also changed the mandi Act. Critics say it will expose farmers to private agencies…

Our government has introduced a new system to increase farmers’ income. In view of Covid-19 and lockdown constraints, we have done away with the mandate to sell 46 of the 53 kinds of fruits and vegetables at mandis. Now, farmers will be able to sell these fruits and vegetables locally or at farm gate. Not only will farmers not have to pay the mandi fees, their incomes will increase and mandis will get less crowded.

Under the new rule, a farmer will be free to sell his produce at his convenience at the farm or anywhere to any merchant or processing unit. If he wants, he will be able to sell his products directly to consumers. Also, farmers can sell their produce online anywhere in the country.

How is the wheat procurement getting along this year?

Our government started purchasing wheat from April 15 and will continue till we reach the target. So far, we have purchased more than 3.3 million tonnes of wheat at the minimum support price fixed by the Centre at Rs 1,925 per quintal. Our government has also set up 5,900 purchasing centres in the state for purchasing wheat. The food department faced a lot of problems in opening the purchase centres and bringing in transporters. To resolve this, our government started the system of online tokens. Through this, farmers register by filling their khatauni and Aadhaar card details on the food department portal. After that farmers get the date and time tokens of their convenience.

A total of 670,000 farmers registered on the portal, and 418,000 have weighed their farm produce. With this system, not only was social distancing followed, but farmers were also able to sell grains at the nearest purchasing centres. In addition, we bought wheat from farmers directly from their fields with the help of 52 farmers producer companies (FPCs).

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