Wanted: A job guarantee scheme for cities
SummaryHUL chief Sanjiv Mehta’s call for an urban job guarantee scheme merits consideration. A safety net for all would serve the cause of pandemic relief and also the principle of inclusion
Sanjiv Mehta, who heads Hindustan Unilever, a consumer products company that serves a vast cross-section of Indians and keeps a close ear to the ground, has suggested it’s time for the government to launch an urban job guarantee along the lines of India’s rural employment scheme. While calling for an extension of the latter’s outlay, which was enlarged to help village-dwellers tide over the covid crisis, Mehta drew attention to the plight of our urban poor. The livelihoods of large numbers in our cities depend on service sectors that have been battered by the pandemic. Restaurants, hotels, tourism-reliant businesses and proximity-based services were hit so severely that few could sustain their payrolls, while the impact was no less harsh on labour employed by builders and others. The exodus witnessed in 2020 from urban centres to the interiors after an all-India lockdown was a visible sign of acute distress, but we also have evidence that services have seen only a patchy recovery, city jobs still remain scarce and scarred incomes are yet to heal. That millions have fallen on hard times is undeniable. They need relief.