NEW DELHI :
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government will launch a massive rural public works scheme, the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, on 20 June to provide livelihood support to migrant workers and rural citizens and create a new social safety net.
The move is aimed at mitigating the impact of a stringent nationwide lockdown that brought economic activity to a standstill across the country and particularly affected the rural economy.
The scheme will be launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi via video conference in the presence of Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), chief and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
This is politically significant as Bihar accounts for large number of the migrant workers who travelled to their hometowns and villages when the lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus. The state is set to go to polls later this year and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar aims to retain power.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday that the job creation drive will focus on 116 districts across six states, together accounting for more than 6.7 million migrant workers, which is nearly two-thirds of the total migrants who have gone to their villages and hometowns. The 25 welfare schemes that cover creation of assets, building houses and facilities for farmers will be pooled under this drive.
“Within 125 days, nearly 25 schemes of the government are going to be brought together and we shall reach saturation levels for each of those schemes within that period," said Sitharaman. The schemes for providing drinking water, road building, and house construction will be expedited in these districts for which the migrant workers who come back from the cities will be employed.
“In the 116 districts, the skills of the workers have been mapped," and everyone who needs a job will be hired, the minister said. “The objectives of the schemes will be achieved by the migrants who come back from the cities. The ₹50,000 crore focused job creation drive is frontloading of the already approved central budget, but any additional amount that needed will be added, Sitharaman explained.
The idea was to pool in from 25 projects so that at district levels, migrant workers who return will be employed during those 125 days and workers can be certain that they will have work where they have returned to, Sitharaman said.
The ₹50,000 crore programme is to include MGNREGS that allows for 100 days of work for members of rural households. The return of millions of people to their home states had resulted in some state governments demanding an increase in number of days of employment under the MGNREGS to 150. The MGNREGS has seen a major spike in the number of people seeking jobs under the programme since May.
Last month, the government announced ₹40,000 crore more for the rural jobs programme besides the ₹61,500 crore announced in the budget on 1 February.
This was part of the more than ₹20 trillion stimulus package unveiled by the Modi government in May to help individuals and small businesses tide over the economic challenges posed by the lockdown.
The government had in March announced a ₹1.7 trillion relief package, amounting to about 1% of its gross domestic product, to limit the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak and tackle the loss of livelihood of millions of poor hit by the nationwide lockdown.
Anuja, Gyan Varma and Gireesh Chandra Prasad contributed to this story.