Thousands of poor people living in urban India might soon find jobs if the new government acts on the suggestions from some members of the Planning Commission.
An employment guarantee scheme for the urban poor along the lines of Congress’ National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) is required for those living in the cities as many in the unorganised sector have lost their jobs because of an economic slowdown, PM designate Manmohan Singh has been told.
“Over 80 per cent employees in urban areas work in the unorganized sector. Due to the slump, their earnings have fallen to very low levels,” commission member Sayeeda Hamid told HT. “A rag picker in Delhi now works 14 hours, as compared to 9-10 hours earlier, but still earns less. It is a hard time for many like them.” The UPA government has also received similar inputs from Arjun Sengupta, who headed a commission for welfare of the unorganized sector workers.
In its election manifesto, the Congress had promised a new employment scheme for the urban poor. “You can expect something very soon,” cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar has already constituted a committee of secretaries to consider new priorities for the next government and how to fit in the promises made by the Congress in its manifesto.
“The government does not want to delay such a plan despite the budgetary constraints. The PM was concerned about the poor in urban areas and appeared inclined towards a new job scheme,” said a plan panel functionary, who attended the Planning Commission’s meeting with Singh last week.
The PMO has also asked Chandrasekhar to identify early the existing programmes that can be modified or deferred to create space for the induction of new priorities.
The government is looking at modifying about 50 Central government schemes, which had an allocation of more than Rs 500 crore for this year.
The new urban employment scheme would cost up to Rs 2,000 crore in the first phase. In order to accommodate this scheme, some of the ongoing programmes will have to scrapped, said a plan panel official who did not wish to be quoted. “The UPA government did it in 2004 to launch NREGS. It can happen again.”