'MP govt faces challenge of providing jobs to migrants'

COVID-19 Lockdown: Madhya Pradesh govt faces challenge of providing jobs to migrant workers

Chhidami Kushwaha's brother Suraj Kushwaha (28) also returned with them. (Credit: PTI Photo)

With more than 13.74 lakh migrant labourers having returned to their homes in Madhya Pradesh so far during the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, the state government faces a big challenge of providing them jobs.

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Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in a televised address last week said Madhya Pradesh's economy has collapsed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labourers Chhidami Kushwaha (35) and his wife Sagun Devi (32), who returned to their native Gopalpura village in Tikamgarh district from Kanjhawala village in Delhi on May 18, claimed on Monday that they have so far not received any help from the Madhya Pradesh government.

Chhidami Kushwaha's brother Suraj Kushwaha (28) also returned with them.

"We three worked as building construction labourers in Delhi and Haryana. We have not received any financial help from the state government yet. My father Sukhlal Kushwaha is looking after our needs now," Chhidami Kushwaha told PTI.

Also Read: Coronavirus India update: State-wise total number of confirmed cases, deaths

The three of them do not have active job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Tikamgarh, he said.

"We migrated to Haryana a couple of years ago for a better livelihood. But, we had to return last week because of the coronavirus outbreak. So, we did not renew our job cards. If we had active cards we would have got Rs 202 wages a day for work under MGNREGA. Right now we are jobless," he said.

Another migrant worker Parmanand Kushwaha, who worked as a welder in building constructions in Delhi, also returned to Gopalpura recently due to the lockdown.

He also said that he has not yet received any financial help from the state government so far.

A panchayat secretary in Tikamgarh, who did not wish to be named, said jobs under MGNREGA have shrunk due to mordernisation of the construction sector.

Nowadays, vehicles, machines are used in construction work and other things instead of workers, he rued.

Tikamgarh is part of the impoverished Bundelkhand region.

To make things worse for migrant workers who have returned home, local labourers are opposing their entry in workplaces due to the fear of COVID-19.

Motilal Kewat (45), a farm labourer from Mohaniya village in the state's Sidhi district, said local labourers are against working with migrants as they feel those who have come back might be carrying the coronavirus disease and may infect others.

However, Madhya Pradesh Additional Chief Secretary (panchayat and rural development) Manoj Shrivastava said the state government was facilitating jobs for migrant labourers who have returned to the state.

The state government is working hard and providing jobs, food and health care on priority to migrant labourers who have returned home, he said.

"More than 13.74 lakh labourers have returned to the state. Of them, over 10 lakh were home quarantined," the official said.

An operation is underway to give them job cards and renew (non-active) them, he said.

The migrant labourers on their return have been medically examined and taken care of, he said, adding that 198 labourers in the state have so far tested positive for coronavirus.

He claimed Madhya Pradesh has provided jobs to 37 lakh labourers under MGNREGA, the highest by any state so far.

The Madhya Pradesh government last month said it provided Rs 1,000 each to nearly 7,000 migrant labourers from 22 states who were stranded in view of the lockdown.

Asked about complaints of migrant labourers that they have not received a monetary help of Rs 1,000 from the state government, Shrivastava said the labour department looks after giving financial help. 

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