As Uttar Pradesh inches closer to the state Assembly elections, The Quint spoke to unemployed graduates, migrant workers, and daily wage labourers at labour chowks about the most tipping issue in the state – unemployment.
Only 11 percent of workers in Uttar Pradesh earn a regular wage, compared to the national average of 19 percent. The unemployment rate in the state has increased by over 2 percent since 2017, and the labour force participation rate has increased by 6 percent.
"Even graduates come seeking MNREGA work," said Sanjeev Kumar Sagar, the Gram Pradhaan of Partapur village in Hapur.
He explained how graduates, who even have two degrees, are applying for temporary contractual jobs which pay Rs 6,000 every month and are meant for 12th-pass students.
These graduates have also resorted to queueing up at labour chowks, waiting for daily wage work for a measly sum. These jobs pay Rs 400 for a day's work, and even this work is not available on all days of the week.
'Won't Even Have Money for Funeral': Plight of a Daily Wage Labourer
Labourers at two labour chowks in Bulandshahr told us how they were starving, unable to feed their children, pay for their education, or fund hospital treatments.
"If a labourer at this chowk dies, they won't even have money for their funeral."Mohammad Akbar, 45, a daily wage labourer from Bulandshahr.
"I have been coming here to get work for the last 20 years. Almost 200 people come here daily, of which a maximum of 20 get work. The rest go back," Pramod Kumar, 40, a daily wage labourer, said.
The government launched two major policies to assist unorganised labourers and unemployed graduates in the state – the e-Shram card and the Uttar Pradesh Berozgaari Bhatta.
e-Shram cards have been made by the Ministry of Labour for the direct benefit transfer of social security schemes. They are meant for workers of the unorganised sector between the ages of 16 and 59 years. The card also promises accident insurance cover of up to Rs 2 lakh.
The Uttar Pradesh Berozgaari Bhatta involves a monetary compensation of Rs 1,000-Rs 1,500, which is given to 12th-pass unemployed people in the state.
But a majority of the people that we met on the ground said that they have never received any such monetary compensation.
"We spent Rs 50-100 to get these cards made, but no money has been transferred to our accounts yet," said Mohit Bhoj. He is 24 years old and an Information Technology (IT) graduate.