Govt may plan scheme for welfare, jobs of migrants
The Narendra Modi government may consider an ambitious, targeted programme to ensure welfare and jobs for millions of migrants who have returned home during the Covid19 pandemic.
According to officials directly familiar with the plan, the programme may start in June and go on for four months at the least and provide either jobs or cash to the people who have returned to their hometowns and villages after losing employment in the cities they had migrated to following the nationwide lockdown.
The programme, however, may not entail any additional support from the exchequer, the officials explained. Existing centrally sponsored schemes such as MGNREGS and scholarships will be tweaked to address the extraordinary situation, they said. The finance ministry announced a ₹20 lakh crore stimulus package earlier this month to help individuals, businesses and states to cope with the pandemic and the impact of the lockdown imposed to fight it.
Many of the measures announced in the package, especially those for small businesses, agriculture and the rural sector, will also come handy for the government to support welfare and financial plans for migrant labourers, the officials added.
Around 9.1 million migrant workers have already returned to their homes.
Preparing the ground for the big-ticket plan, the government’s machinery has already started mapping districts that have received 25,000 or more migrant workers, the officials said. Those areas with a higher concentration of migrants would see an early roll-out of the plan.
The final decision on the plan, according to them, will be taken by the PMO.
“Millions of workers have returned to their villages and not all of them will be interested in digging earth under MGNREGS. They have a wide variety of expertise and we need to address their needs through a bouquet of welfare programmes, using MSMEs,and rural or agricultural schemes,” said one of the officials.
According to this person if approved, the programme could be launched by June.
A second official pointed out that centrally-sponsored and central sector schemes already have the capacity to adapt to rising demand. They further argue that as these schemes are monitored and executed directly by the union government, it is easier to use them for such exigencies.
The second official added that it’s not required to further dig into the exchequer for rolling out such a targeted programme as funds are already tied up for each scheme.
“Such a targeted programme, if it is approved and executed, has a dual advantage: It can help millions of distressed workers and maximize the potential of government schemes and the stimulus package,” said the first official.