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The decision of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to finally end nationwide lockdown and restart economic activity in the country has not changed the fortunes of migrant workers who went back to their villages after economic activity stopped, members of the parliamentary labour committee who met on Friday discussed.

In the standing committee’s meeting, union government informed the parliamentarians that out of the 116 worst affected districts identified by union and state governments under Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA), only 34 lakh migrant workers have been identified and skill mapping of only 34,000 workers have been completed till now.

“The situation is not very encouraging as far as migrant labourers are concerned. The officials of union government have told the parliamentary committee that so far less than 5,000 people who were identified for skill mapping have been received employment," said those in the know of development.

Parliamentarians in the standing committee of Labour were unanimously of the opinion that there was an urgent need for a nationwide programme to not just identify migrant labourers but also the process of skill mapping should be better planned to avoid a repeat of the migrant crisis that was visible during the nationwide lockdown in the country.

“There was a unanimous question from all members that how were the most affected districts chosen? Since the union government says that these districts had witnessed reverse migration of 25000 or more migrant labourers, how were these districts identified. Members also wanted to know what was the role of union government and state governments in identifying these districts," said those in the know of development.

Members in the know of the development also said that representatives of ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship along with rural development were present for the meeting on Friday. They pointed out in the briefing that most of the migrant workers have been employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

“The number of people employed under MGNREGA has three folds in the past few months, especially in April, May, June and July. The states which have witnessed this threefold increase in the MGNREGS are Rajasthan, Odisha Uttar Pradesh and Bihar," a second member of the committee said requesting anonymity.

Union government has also informed the members of the committee that finance ministry also sanction an additional sum of 40,000 under MGNREGS and it would meet the growing requirement since many migrant workers are choosing it for employment.

“There is a view that some of the states have lagged behind in proper implementation of the rural jobs scheme. In some instances, money from the centre is sent but is not optimally utilized. So, one of the suggestions we have come up with is that there should be a mechanism of better auditing at the state level," the second member quoted above added.

Another member who attended the meeting on Friday said that the key focus at this stage is self-employment for migrant workers and how to make them more oriented towards entrepreneurship. The member added that another meeting of the committee is likely to be held on 17 August where representatives from Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution would attend.

“Right now a lot of implementation responsibility of schemes around skilling and employment for migrant workers is with district administration. We feel there needs to be a more robust process of seeking updates from district level. The real challenge is a lot about how to create awareness at the ground level among migrant workers over schemes which could benefit them and improving the overall grassroot implementation," the third member of the committee added.

Neeraj Dangi, senior Congress leader from Rajasthan who recently joined Rajya Sabha as a member, raised the issue of better implementation of MGNREGS scheme by increasing the number of work days.

"Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding that number of work days under MGNREGS should increase from 100 days to 200 days. In the interests of workers, I put forth this demand in the meeting of standing committee of labour," Dangi posted on Twitter after the meeting on Friday.

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