Only 78% funds for migrant scheme used
The Union government’s special mission to provide jobs for migrant workers has been able to spend around 78% or Rs 38,921 crore out of its kitty of Rs 50,000 crore, triggering a debate if a large number of beneficiaries had returned to cities and let go of the scheme.
The latest data on the scheme, Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, also shows that it generated 473 million days of work, mostly in construction-related activities.
As millions of migrant workers left cities after the Covid pandemic triggered a federal lockdown, the government announced in June that it will frontload funds in 25 ongoing schemes and the “focused campaign” will run in mission mode for 125 days across 116 districts in six states to help migrant workers get jobs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi kick-started the mission from Bihar on June 20. The state had received the largest number of migrant workers—3 million—since the pandemic swept through India, leaving daily-wagers jobless in big cities.
“In 125 days, nearly 25 schemes will be brought together to reach saturation. These will include Pradhan Mantri awas yojna, gram sadak yojna, jal Jeevan yojna, PM gram sadk yojna, etc,” finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in the press conference, announcing the mission.
The latest data showed that of the 25 schemes, the rural housing programme (PMAY-G) has seen the largest number or 475,692 projects, followed by 156,211 water conservation and harvesting works and 92,158 projects on laying of fibre optic cables under Bharat Net.
To be sure, the progress report of the scheme would overlap with the outcome data of individual schemes as the nature of this mission was to create a special basket of jobs out of existing programmes. Thus, the jobs generated under rural housing scheme would also reflect as the MGNREGS persondays as the latter allows beneficiaries to work for 90 days to construct PMAY houses.
The government also stated that “objectives of this 125 days Abhiyaan, with a resource envelop of Rs 50,000 crore” are to “provide livelihood opportunities to returning migrants and similarly affected rural citizens, saturate villages with public infrastructure - Anganwadis, Panchayat Bhawans, Community Sanitary Complexes etc” and “Set stage for enhancing longer term livelihood opportunities”.
“I think surveys and anecdotal evidence have shown that a large number of migrant workers returned to the cities. The MGNREGS figures too, show that demand for work has fallen. In these circumstances there is enough reason to conclude that there is a drop in demand for the scheme. But I must also add that it was a good decision and the provisioning was also good. At that time, when migrants were desperately returning to their villages, people wanted something to cling on,” said former rural development secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra.
While anecdotal accounts support the view that a lot of migrants have gone back to the cities, high frequency indicators on employment suggest that the urban job market might not have recovered from the pandemic’s economic shock. The latest (September) RBI consumer confidence survey shows that perception on current employment in cities continued to deteriorate. Even though the Purchasing Managers’ Index for both manufacturing and services entered the expansion zone in October, enterprises continued to report a decline in employment.
(With inputs from Roshan Kishore)
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