Modi’s Employment Scheme Has Failed in the Village it Started From
Village head Anil Singh said that only 100 migrant workers are left in the village now and work has dried up.
Addressing BJP's Bihar working committee via video conferencing on Sunday, party's national president JP Nadda said: "Under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, arrangements have been made to provide employment to the migrant labourers in their home town itself. This has been undertaken in around 22 districts of the state or more so far and labourers have been connected to this scheme. It is my request that we should keep this in mind and take it forward".
But this is far from reality.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana on 20 June. Its purpose was to remove the economic problems of the workers and increase employment opportunities. It was said to provide work for 125 days to workers of 116 districts of 6 states, including 32 districts in Bihar. The scheme was launched by the PM through video conferencing from Telihar village in Bihar’s Khagaria district.
During this conference, Mukhiya (village head) of Telihar Anil Singh told PM Modi that 475 migrant labourers have returned to his village from different parts of the country.
The scheme was initiated on 20 June and The Quint called up Anil Singh around two months later on 18 August to get an update on employment status of the migrant labourers in his village.
Anil Singh told The Quint that 70-80 labourers worked hardly for 20-25 days and work has completely stopped now. He, however, reduced the total number of migrant labourers in his village to 463 from 475 - what he had originally told the PM.
Anil Singh added that only about a 100 migrant workers are left in the village now. The rest of them have migrated back.
‘The Officers Never Came Back’
Kailash Ravidas, a resident of Navkadih in Sikandra block of Jamui, used to make slippers in Kolkata. When the work stopped in lockdown, he returned home on 23 May and went to stay at the quarantine centre in Sikandra's IT center.
The local administration immediately started preparing Kailash for the big day. Next day, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was to speak to selected few migrants via video conference.
“The moment I entered the quarantine centre on 23 May, officers started asking me my whereabouts and about my job. They asked me whether I would like to work here. I said why not. Then they said we would make you open a factory here. I told them opening a factory is not possible for me. Many factories have failed in Sikandra,” said Kailash.
CM spoke to Kailash on 24 May, but he didn’t speak about employment, neither did the officers after video conference was over.
The Quint spoke to him on 18 August, about three months later. It has been three months since Kailash is unemployed. A conversation with CM has turned Kailash into a subject of ridicule in his village.
“They have turned me into a joke. Villagers keep teasing me saying BDO, DM, CM will give me job. But those officers never came back to the centre. I am at home for over two and a half months now, they haven’t gotten in touch yet.”Kailash
He is handicapped; there is no breadwinner at his home now. His son used to work in Kolkata with him. He has returned home as well. Kailash is in debt.
“We are sitting here idly and taking loans to arrange for food. In two and half months we have taken loan of Rs 10-11,000,” said Kailash.
While initiating Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, PM Modi had said that government is making all efforts to make sure that people don’t get into debt while staying in their village.
Kailash wants to return to his job in Kolkata. However, many like him have already migrated back.
‘Had to Sell My Mobile Phone to Meet Bus Fair’
On 10 June, buses were being sent from Punjab and Haryana to carry migrant workers from Bihar.
Now, this has become a common sight. Buses are being sent from different parts of the country to take migrants back.
Raquib from Kishanganj’s Pothia block returned to Delhi on 16 August in a similar bus to work in a sewing factory.
“What would I eat if I don’t work? I have no money left for food. I had to sell my mobile phone for Rs 2,000 to meet the bus fare,” said Raquib while leaving his village in a bus.
Media Must Rethink the Definition of Migration: Additional Secretary
According to data provided by Rural Development Department of Bihar government which is responsible for the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan in the state, total 3,67,56,784 jobs have been generated by spending Rs. 5258.31 crore till 26 August under the scheme.
When asked about the Telihar village, Additional Secretary of the department Rajiv Raushan said, “We have to look at that positively. Every citizen has right to work wherever they want. Different skills come from different parts of the country. The purpose of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana is not to stop migration. When people move to another state of the country, if we call that migration, maybe we have to rethink the definition, may be this is a definition given by media.”
Although, while launching the scheme PM Modi had clearly said, “The movement is dedicated to my worker brothers and youth and women living in villages, most of them are those workers who returned home during lockdown… Our effort is to give job to workers near their home town.”
When The Quint contacted Sikandra CO to ask about Kailash Ravidas, he asked us to send him to meet BDO.
(Tanzil Asif is a Bihar based journalist and co-founder of Main Media)
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