70k rural roads, 5 million houses among job avenues for migrants
Building of nearly 70,000 kilometres of rural roads and five million houses for the poor are employment avenues lined up for migrants returning to their villages as an overwhelming number of them are construction workers, officials familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
The officials said the rural development ministry asked states to engage the large number of construction workers—estimated to be more than two-thirds of the total returning workers—in these two types of work to provide opportunities to match their skills.
The availability of additional workforce would also help the government meet its annual target of building roads and PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) houses in time and avoid the rush to only grab MGNREGS jobs.
According to an official, under the third phase of the PM’s rural road scheme, about 14,000 kilometres of new roads are left to be constructed while there is also pending work from the previous year and an ambitious target of upgrading old roads.
A senior official said funding for constructing houses was already budgeted for. He pointed out construction workers could also get 90/95 days of wages for building houses under the PMAY.
“With so many houses yet to be built, the construction sector workers who have returned to their villages can find a job of their choice instead of digging earth under MGNREGS,” said an official.
According to official data on the rural road scheme or PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana), of the 174,000 road works approved, 157,000 have been completed. This includes both new roads and upgraded existing ones.
Similarly, in the housing project, PMAY, a target was set for 6.15 million houses in this financial year. So far, 195,000 houses have been sanctioned. According to data available with the ministry, not a single house has been completed so far. Experts pointed out the lockdown and related issues resulted in the delay and in the month of April, hardly any work was taken up as states were not prepared to roll out the requirements.
Both these projects—roads and houses—are key to rural development. While the housing scheme provides the rural poor with their own homes, the road network makes it easier to commute and helps farmers reach mandis with their produce.
The rural housing project, along with the Ujjwala cooking gas connection scheme and the Saubhagya power programme, is a vital pivot of the government’s focus on creating individual assets.
Another official, however, added that road and housing schemes would only be a part of the larger aim of the government to accommodate millions of jobless migrant workers. The government is also weighing other options including horticulture, animal husbandry and a programme to upgrade their skills during this period.
An employment generation and skill upgrade programme, which includes district-wise mapping of workers and identifying their skill-sets, is being designed by the Prime Minister’s Office with the help of the rural development, agriculture, animal husbandry, skill development and road transport ministries.
The initiative for migrant workers will not entail any additional financial support from the exchequer, but existing centrally sponsored and central sector schemes—such as MGNREGS, PMAY and PMGSY—will be used to address a situation the officials cited above described as extraordinary.