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Govt to rehabilitate jobless diamond workers under NREGA

Unwilling to come up with a ‘bailout package’ for the rehabilitation of diamond workers,the Gujarat government has now devised a novel way to provide employment to the lot to survive in these turbulent times.

Written by Kamran Sulaimani | Vadodara |
January 29, 2009 12:52:39 am

Unwilling to come up with a ‘bailout package’ for the rehabilitation of diamond workers,the Gujarat government has now devised a novel way to provide employment to the lot to survive in these turbulent times.

The government has directed all the District Development Officers (DDOs) of the state to include the diamond workers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The Diamond Workers’ Association,however,is not too smitten by the idea and is insisting that diamond workers are a skilled lot and will not do casual labour.

The DDOs have been asked to encourage workers who have returned to their native villages after being laid-off from various diamond units in Surat.

“This is the initiative of the state government. The idea is to provide needful employment to those who are willing to work under the scheme. We have already given instructions to all the DDOs to encourage diamond workers to join the scheme (NREGA),” said BK Joshi,Assistant Commissioner,NREGA,Gujarat.

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Joshi added that there is a provision in NREGA,which empowers anyone to ask for employment under the scheme.

The diamond labourers,who are predominantly from Saurashtra,have been looking for alternative work after losing their jobs.

After the global meltdown in the US,the exports from these units were hit badly,forcing the unit owners to lay-off workers in large numbers.

As a result,many diamond workers as well as their family members committed suicide in the last six months. The government,however,refused to provide them with any bailout package.

The government now plans to provide these workers with at least 100 days work under NREGA so that they can sustain themselves.

The government had earlier left the labourers to fend for themselves and snubbed the units when they asked for sops. Instead,they were told not to shut down the units.

Although the government is already boasting about this new initiative,the diamond workers are not impressed with this.

The office of the Diamond Workers’ Association was attacked by the labourers recently when a seminar was organised to provide them with alternative jobs,such as textile workers,motor mechanics,and electricians among others.

Babubhai Jirawala,president of the association,said: “How can the government expect the diamond workers to work under NREGA? They are skilled labourers who are provided with facilities like ACs and fans in their offices. How are they going to work as labourers on projects such as road widening? The government should instead come up with some sort of package for rehabilitation of the diamond workers. What about their children studying in schools in Surat? What are they going to do for their studies? Would they be able to pay the fees of the schools by working under NREGA?”

The government,however,is quite convinced about its new idea. One of the DDOs said on condition of anonymity that the process of introducing the bailout package under NREGA is underway.

“We are working on some concrete plans for the diamond workers,” the official said.

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