Jobs for migrants in rural areas might need greater fund allocation

The scheme and works that will be dovetailed include rural roads programme, rural housing programme, programmes for construction of anganwadi centres
As the government prepares to provide employment to almost 6.7 million of the over 10 million returning migrants through the PM Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana, experts say the without additional fund allocation it remains to be seen how many new jobs are created. The scheme would be formally launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bihar on Saturday. 

That apart, some experts said a substantial part of the Rs 50,000 crore that has been talked about for spending under the various programmes through front-loading of expenditure in the next 125 days or bit over four months would have any way been incurred. 

The reason being that under the current rules, ministries are not allowed to spend more than 33 per cent of the budgeted allocation in the last quarter of any financial year and not more than 15 per cent in the last month of a financial year.

Of the Rs 50,000 crore that the Centre is planning to spend through converging 25 rural-centric employment generation schemes such as housing and rural roads, at least Rs 33,500 crore would have to be spent by December as per current rules. However, after the front-loading the entire sum will get spent by October or early November, assuming that the scheme would start from July.  

“I don’t know what is the front-loading here because in normal course a substantial part of this expenditure on the schemes would have to happen before January. But, yes, if they front load some expenditure it is not bad as it pumps in money,” Himanshu, Associate Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University told Business Standard.

He said it is not very clear as to how much state’s are willing to share in these schemes, because in several of them such as rural roads and housing, states share is substantial.

The Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan, is being planned a mega convergence of almost 25 existing Central government schemes and works to provide 125 days of meaningful employment to nearly a third of the returning migrants in 116 districts where most of them have gone back in the wake of Covid-19 lockdown.

The scheme and works that will be dovetailed include rural roads programme, rural housing programme, programmes for construction of anganwadi centres, community toilets, railway works, RURBAN Mission, farm ponds, cattle sheds, goat sheds etc.

“What we plan to do is that we will place the migrants’ workers in constructing these physical assets either directly or by giving instructions to contractors to employ the migrants first,” a senior official explained. He said the wages would be in line with what is provided under the various schemes. 

“In some programmes such as those under livelihood mission attempts will be made to create entrepreneurial individuals through training and handholding so that they don’t need to return back to their old jobs,” the official explained.

Reetika Khera, associate professor (economics), IIT Delhi said that if the budget for the schemes that have been converged is not enhanced, she did not see how it will create additional employment for those urban/migrant workers who are returning to their villages.

“Those existing schemes already employed local workers, so if the budget is not enhanced, it will either displace existing local workers or reduce the employment they were getting in order to accommodate urban migrants,” she told Business Standard.

Khera said migrant workers who are returning to their homes in rural areas could be helped much better by increasing the budget for MNREGA, because systems are already in place there. 

“Many people do not seem to realise that migrant workers who are returning to rural areas can also be helped by enhancing the MNREGA budget. (Either they or their family members can work on NREGA sites) if the labour himself is skilled and doesn’t want to get employment under MGNREGA,” she said.

Mahesh Vyas, managing director of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said that the employment number in rural areas needs to monitored closely for the next 3-4 months to see whether this convergence has actually helped in reducing unemployment.

CMIE’s latest estimates show that unemployment rate which sky-rocketed to 24 per cent in the last week of May has dropped to almost 12 per cent by first week of June as the economy opened up driven largely by a better rise in jobs in rural India.
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The NITI Aayog has formed a panel including top officials of tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Tech Mahindra to develop a job platform for migrant labourers, according to sources involved in the project. The move comes at a time when a huge number of migrant workers have lost their jobs during the lockdown period. PTI


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