Politics or not, they’re queuing up in hordes
And believe it or not, women are beating the men to the window. They’re coming in chauffeur-driven cars, maid servants in tow. However, the moot question is whether the State Govt is ready.
CALL IT Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s concern for the unemployed youth or yet another round of pure politics, the unique experiment of paying ‘unemployment allowance’ of Rs 500 per month to unemployed graduates and postgraduates (registered with various employment exchanges as on February 28, 2006) would begin soon.
The disbursement of the allowance begins at the start of the next fiscal. According to estimates, the State Government would need Rs 250 crore per annum to disburse the allowance to all those registered on December 31, 2005. Now the registration date has been revised to February 28, 2006. So this amount would go up higher considerably.
No funds have been allocated so far to implement the scheme and the State Government will have to really pull up its socks to expedite formalities to begin the process of payment. Meanwhile, a final picture on the actual amount of total payment would emerge only when the State Government receives all the statistics of those registered with employment exchanges.
The unemployment allowance is part of the Chief Minister’s announcements made in the State’s annual budget on February 15, 2006. If one goes by the Samajwadi Party’s election manifesto, the Chief Minister seems to be keeping his promise.
But before making the announcement, the Chief Minister wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him for funds, though the promise of paying ‘unemployment allowance’ was part of Samajwadi Party’s election manifesto. The PM, however, turned down the request saying the Centre had no proposal to fund the scheme. The CM took strong exception to the PM’s response, saying, the refusal reflected on the intentions of the Centre that did not care for the unemployed.
As per reports received from various districts, the rate of registration in various employment exchanges has gone up ever since the Chief Minister made the announcement. Take for example the case of Agra, where only 153 graduates and postgraduates were registered in January 2006. This number has gone up 10 times in February 2006, when 1500 unemployed graduates and postgraduates were registered. In Kushinagar, the figures have gone up nearly five times.
Against 1,079 cases registered in January this year, 6550 cases have been registered.
In Lucknow too, the registrations have increased by about 12 percent in the past two months.
Senior officers of the Employment Directorate say the average increase in registrations may be up five to 10 times. So will unemployment allowance help the youth? No, say officers of labour and employment departments. Barring a few exceptions, the unemployment allowance would just prove to be ‘pocket money’ or peanuts for a majority of the registered youth. “Many of them will probably waste it on ‘pan masala’ etc,” they say, adding, a considerable number of deserving candidates may not have got registered themselves with employment exchanges. As a result, many genuine candidates may not get the desired help as intended.
Officers also remain apprehensive saying checks and balances may have to be imposed while implementing the scheme. First, there has to be a bar on the age if the scheme were to be restricted only to youth. The State Government will also have to define unemployment and take a decision on how many members from a family should be entitled to get allowance.
At the same time the State Government will also have to keep an eye on registrations. Many graduates and postgraduates often get themselves registered at more than one place. The State Government will have to work out a mechanism to ensure that a person does not draw the unemployment allowance from more than one place. “We plan to put a stamp on the back of the original certificate, indicating the employment exchange from where the allowance is being paid,” said the officer.
Will the State Government put a bar on the economic condition of graduates and the postgraduates, is the million-rupee question being asked in political circles here. When contacted, Principal secretary (Labour and Employment) Anis Ansari said the rules for disbursement of the allowance were still being framed.
Disbursement would commence once the State Cabinet gave its approval to scheme, said Ansari. Meanwhile, Labour and Employment Minister Waqar Ahmad Shah said the process of formulation of rules was being expedited to ensure timely disbursement.
Uttar Pradesh will be the first state in the country to provide any such allowance. If viewed in the backdrop of the National Employment Guarantee Scheme that promises employment in rural areas, the Chief Minister’s announcement may be an attempt to counter the Centre’s scheme and vice versa, even though the two schemes have been formulated for two different sections. UP’s scheme focuses mainly on the unemployed graduates and postgraduates, while the Centre has formulated the scheme for the benefit of rural poor.
And even as the Chief Minister is decrying the PM’s ‘Nay’, he has taken full advantage of the National Employment Guarantee Scheme that has been implemented in selected districts of the State. A provision of Rs 130 crore to provide unemployment allowance to those who fail to get 100-day employment has been made. In an obvious bid to take political mileage the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) too has decided to take the scheme to the people.
A 30-page booklet giving details of the scheme has been brought out and Congressmen have been asked to make a mention of it in their public meetings to ensure that people in rural areas were aware of the provisions of the scheme.
MORE THAN 12,000 unemployed graduates and postgraduates have got registered after the announcement by the Chief Minister during his budget speech. Thanks to the announcement, the Regional Employment Office has finally got some ‘work’ to do after years of inaction, said an insider.
Till the month of February, out of 2.25 lakh unemployed youths registered with the employment exchange, only 41,000 were graduates and post-graduates. But after the announcement by the Chief Minister, the number of graduates and postgraduates registered with the employment exchange has gone up to nearly 53,000.
According to regional employment officer SK Saksena out of 12,000 new registrations more than 5000 are girls. “This shows girls are more interested in the unemployment allowance. It also shows that now more and more girls are interested in jobs. They don’t want to confine themselves to housework after taking degrees,” said Saksena.
People are thronging the employment exchange expecting another announcement by the government over the extension of date of registration for the allowance said Saksena. He said, “It is difficult to make them understand, that we are also waiting for the GO regarding the distribution of unemployment allowance. We are still in the dark about the conditions associated with the payment of unemployment allowance.”
Meanwhile, modalities for distrbibution of the allowance are being worked out.
The unemployment allowance would not be offered without riders. Due to a heavy financial crunch the Government cannot give the allowance to everyone registered at the exchange. Probably the allowance will only be given to those living below the poverty line or from backward or scheduled caste.
REGISTRATIONS CONTINUE to increase at the Regional Employment Exchange (REE) for ‘unemployment allowance’. The total number of registrations before the announcement of the scheme stood at only 76000. However, after the announcement, the REE in the city registered about 40,000 new registrations in just one month. This figure is steadily increasing at the rate of 1000 registrations per day.
And the ratio of women to men getting registered at the REE is 6: 4. The mad scramble of Kanpurites to get a piece of the pie of the CM’s largesse can be gauged by the fact that on February 28 alone, the REE recorded 6000 new registrations. Of this 3600 registrations were women and 2400 male candidates.
The situation is even more surprising in the districts falling under the Kanpur division, Etawah, Auriyya, Kannauj, Farukhabad, Kanpur Dehat and Kanpur Nagar. The employment exchanges in these districts are ill-equipped both in terms of manpower and infrastructure to manage the sudden influx of new registrations of unemployed youths.
Regional Employment Officer Ashok Kumar Singh told the ‘Hindustan Times’, “In Kanpur we are able to manage the crowd but the situation is worse in the districts due to paucity of staff.”
“Even people belonging to the affluent class of the society, specially women, are queuing up to get themselves registered. Women in chauffeur-driven cars along with their maid servants, is a common sight at the REE in the city,” pointed out Singh. Several cases of a mother-daughter duo queuing up to get themselves registered have come up, informed Singh.