Bhubaneswar: In a bid to restart livelihoods of migrant workers and others who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 16 district level helpdesks have been set up to link them with various livelihood based schemes and employment opportunities, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
The helpdesks will offer specific livelihood information, food security programmes and other government assistance announced by the state and central governments.
Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha (OSM) and Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha (MSMO) have launched this initiative as part of their livelihood campaign titled ‘Prabashee Shramaku Na Karibaa Mana, Nija Gaon Re Karibaa Jeebika Arjana’ which literally means to promote livelihood at the locality and avoiding distress migration.
Balangir, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Gajapati, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada are among the 11 migration prone districts where the helpdesks have been set up. As the influx of the migrant returnees is large in number, one of the immediate challenges for the returnees will be their livelihood prospects.
Similarly, other districts where helpdesks have been set up are Malkangiri, Kandhamal, Boudh, Nayagarh, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Sundergarh and Deogarh. In these districts, tribal people are confronting an extremely difficult time due to COVID 19.
The greater chunk of minor forest produce is gathered between April and June every year but the lockdown has prevented them from collecting it for the entire year.
“The helpdesk facility is useful for such communities who seek work at this critical time. People can call us, register their issues over telephone or visit our helpdesk centres which are located in the district headquarters, to know about schemes and the Acts that concern them. We are there to help”, says Mukunda Madkami, a Sangathan member of Shramajeebee Sangathan and an in-charge of the district level helpdesk centre, set up in Malkangiri.
“We have so far been successful to mobilise work under MGNREGA for around 60,000 households per day in these 16 districts for two weeks consecutively, which we had started on a campaign mode from 1st June. Our Janasathis (grassroots workers) have been visiting villages, interacting with the people and persuading them to benefit from various government schemes which are announced by both the central and the state government during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Anjan Pradhan, the convener of Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha.
According to the data provided by I & PR Department, Government of Odisha on 11th June, 5,22,148 Odias have returned to Odisha since 3rd May.
“This is a humongous task. With the Odisha government bracing for effective implementation of MGNREGA in the state, the helpdesks will be crucial,” says Shanti Bhoi, state president of Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha.