Chequered path: From chiselling diamonds to cutting roads

Diamonds are not forever,at least for the unemployed workers from Amreli and Bhavnagar who had once worked at diamond units in Surat.

Written by Kamran Sulaimani | Vadodara | Published:March 3, 2009 1:17 am

Diamonds are not forever,at least for the unemployed workers from Amreli and Bhavnagar who had once worked at diamond units in Surat. Finding it difficult to survive in the aftermath of the industry hitting a rough patch,these workers have now taken up jobs such as checking dam depth,tree plantation,and road widening under the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) Scheme. As per statistics,NREG Commission,Gujarat,has issued job cards to 2,879 diamond worker families.

Several job applications from such families have come in the last two months. The flagship scheme floated by the UPA government promises at least 100 days of work to the person who applies for a job. Earlier,the Diamond Workers’ Association (DWA) had raised an objection against the government’s decision,saying that the diamond workers will never take up jobs under NREGS. But of late,many have approached the authorities for work under the scheme.

According to figures provided by BK Joshi,Assistant Commissioner,NREG Gujarat state commission,“Bhavnagar has the maximum number of diamond worker families (1,240) registered under NREG scheme,followed by Amreli (644),Junagadh (500),Ahmedabad (400),Mehsana (60) and Banaskantha (25).”

Asked about how they distinguish between the workers,Joshi said,“The DRDAs have been asked to do a background check on them for our information.” The diamond workers have been looking for alternatives after losing their jobs in Surat. Many of them even committed suicide in the last six months. NREGS has shown them a road to survival.

In Amreli district,response to the scheme has so far been good. “We have issued 644 job cards till now: the maximum in Savarkundla and Rajula. We have also made special arrangements for them so that they don’t face any hurdles in starting work,” said Amreli District Development Officer Shekhar Vidyarthi.

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