Migrant Workers’ Plight & Covid 19
A widely-quoted figure based on the 2011 census and on NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) data, asserts there are 65 million inter-state migrants, of which a third are workers.
When social distancing was made a central point of the campaign, the impossibility of it in slums was overlooked.
Worst of all, was the lack of the anticipation that without work, savings or food, migrant workers and their families would want, and attempt, to rush home.
In announcing the lockdown, the central government had invoked the Disaster Management Act, which overrode state governments’ powers: But when it came to the migrants’ transportation, suddenly, without notice, why was the onus transferred to the states?
Merge Income Support Schemes with MGNREGA
Chhattisgarh government deserves compliments for launching the Rajiv Gandhi Kisan Nyay Yojana (RGKNY), an income transfer scheme at Rs 10,000/acre for paddy farmers and Rs 13,000/acre for sugarcane farmers.
The first question to ask is: Who is the actual beneficiary of the income support schemes? Are cash advances given to the owner farmer or the tenant farmer who actually tills the land? Ideally, the money should go to the real tiller. But in large parts of the country, there is no record of tenancy.
In the absence of such legal changes in land lease laws, the only way forward is to fully inform the tiller that the owner has got income support and then appeal to the owner to pass on this benefit to the tiller.
The other issue is identifying the landless labourers working on farms.
The time has come to think seriously about merging income support schemes, including the PM KISAN and state-level schemes, with the MGNREGA and price-subsidy schemes.
Restructuring MGNREGA Might Dilute its Basic Purpose
- The Act has by and large succeeded in meeting its core objective of providing employment.
- While the objective of creating quality infrastructure has not been realised to its full potential, it is nevertheless true that the MGNREGA has been helpful to small and marginal farmers and rain-fed farmers like no other government programme.
- It has created water storage structures like earthen dams and ponds; soil and water conservation measures; tree cover, drinking water wells and roads for the community.
- All these works have added to farm productivity and the income of some of the poorest farmers and have created pathways out of poverty for them.
- For employment in urban areas it would be better to consider the option of creating an urban employment guarantee, even though it does open up many issues of how it will be implemented.
- Restructuring MGNREGA might dilute its basic purpose and may not serve the MSMEs either.