Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday launched an employment scheme with an outlay of Rs 50,000 crore for migrant workers who returned to their home states during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
Launching the scheme, Modi said during the nationwide lockdown, the talent from cities returned to villages and it will now give a boost to development of rural areas.
The ‘Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyaan’ will be implemented on a mission mode in 125 days in 116 districts of six states — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha — that received the maximum numbers of migrant workers back.
It will help expedite implementation of 25 public infrastructure works and those related to augmentation of livelihood opportunities.
These 25 works are related to rural housing for the poor, plantations, provision of drinking water through Jal Jeevan Mission, and construction of panchayat bhavans, community toilets, rural mandis, rural roads, cattle sheds and anganwadi bhavans, according to the ministry of rural development, which is the nodal ministry for the project.
The scheme was launched weeks after lakhs of migrant workers returned to their home states following loss of employment in urban centres due to the nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Under the scheme, the basket of a wide variety of works will ensure that each migrant worker is able to get an opportunity of employment according to his skill in the coming 125 days, it said, adding that the programme will also prepare for expansion and development of livelihoods over a longer term.
Speaking on the occasion, Modi said there are some people who may not appreciate efforts of villagers in the fight against the novel coronavirus but he applauds them for their efforts.
The way villages have fought coronavirus has taught a big lesson to the cities, he added.
Talent has returned from cities during the lockdown, those whose labour and skills were behind the rapid growth of cities will now boost development of villages with the help of this scheme, he said.
Underlining that migrant workers were always in the Centre’s thoughts during the lockdown, the prime minister said it is an endeavour of his government that workers get jobs near their home and help in development of villages.
Talking about infrastructure development of villages with the help of this scheme, Modi said that for the first time the Internet was being used more in villages than in cities and now work to increase the speed of the Internet was being undertaken.
This scheme will focus on durable rural infrastructure and providing modern facilities like Internet in the villages, he said.
The Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyaan was launched by Modi via video conference in a village in Khagaria district of Bihar in the presence of the chief ministers of five states — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand — and a minister from Odisha.
The mission will be a convergent effort between 12 different ministries/ departments such as Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Road Transport and Highways, Mines, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Environment, Railways, Petroleum and Natural Gas, New and Renewable Energy, Border Roads, Telecom, and Agriculture.
The prime minister said he got the idea for the scheme from a group of migrant workers, trained in white washing, who repaired and painted a government school in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh as a thank you gesture.
The school was their quarantine centre.
Before launching the scheme, Modi spoke to several migrants and enquired their current state of employment and also whether the various welfare schemes launched during the lockdown period were available to them.
Modi said that earlier money used to be given in the name of beneficiaries but it never reached them. Now things have changed, he said.
In the beginning of his speech, Modi paid homage to the soldiers of the Bihar Regiment who lost their lives in a violent clash with Chinese troops at LAC in eastern Ladakh.
A total of 25,000 ‘returnee’ migrant workers across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha have been chosen for the campaign.
Officials said the Garib Kalyan Rozgyar Abhiyan is separate from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
The MGNREGS ensures 100 days of employment per household in a year.
MGNREGS is applicable across the country and a large number of works are allowed under the scheme even working on own farms by small Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe farmers is allowed and government pay wages to them.
Whereas the Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana is a one-time scheme for providing employment to migrant workers who returned during the lockdown near their villages.
This scheme is only applicable to 116 districts with a selected list of works initially for 125 days. Later it could be extended, the officials said.