Bhubaneswar: With the state government plans to create 20 crore person-days’ work for returning migrants under the MGNREGA scheme, various civil society organisations have slammed the nature of job creation with heavy dependence on the mass employment scheme.
As per govt report, over 5.43 lakh migrants have returned to the state so far. Though many of them have chosen to work under MGNREGA, some of them are reluctant to work under the scheme as they were skilled workers and manual labour will contravene with their self-respect and dignity.
As per MNREGA portal data, only 38.91% of the 1.75 crore workers registered as of July 6, have got work under the scheme.
In many places, returnees are still staring at severe uncertainty fearing loss of livelihoods. Besides, social ostracisation and discriminatory treatment have made their lives tougher.
“On returning to the villages, migrants face a host of issues. Moneylenders are demanding interest on the loans they availed last year,” says Bidyadhar Suna, a local social activist and member of people’s collective in Bolangir, a district which is listed among the 11 most migration-prone districts in Odisha.
Many workers are hesitant in taking up jobs under the scheme due to ill health and physical weakness. A 42-year-old resident of Antarla village under Muribahal block of Bolangir district, Sanyasi Sunani was working as brickmaker in different states since the last 20 years. He was working in Telangana when the pandemic struck. After returning to the village, he is living in acute distress as he is unable to work under MGNREGA due to health issues. I require financial support to start a small business,” he lamented.
Similar is the case of Umesh Bagarti, a construction worker from Bolangir who is working as a wage labourer since childhood after dropping out from Std 8 due to poor financial condition of the family. He was working as a daily wager in Mumbai with his elder brother who works there as a mason in construction sites. He reached home by travelling in a bicycle from Mumbai along with other co-workers. They are yet to receive wages from the company.
“MGNREGA is not the only solution to restore the livelihood of returnee migrants in the state. A large percentage of these people cannot work under MNREGA. They should be provided with credit linkages. The state should do more to develop entrepreneurship. There are thousands of educated youth who have returned to their villages now. The government should focus on upgrading their skills which will make them self-employed,” said social activist Saroj Kumar Barik.
Arun Prasad Dihudi, an expert on mass employment schemes, said, “The payment system on MNREGA is still terrible. The Act states that Govt should provide work to people who need it. However, in reality, people work when Govt desires. Also, MNREGA wage in Odisha is comparatively low.”
Chief secretary Asit Tripathy said, “The state had announced a Rs 17,000 crore package to provide employment and income generation opportunities to the worst affected sections including the migrant workers and farmers.”
Arindam Ganguly, OP