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Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Scheme: ‘Rs 259 a day not enough, but at least we have a job’

The scheme promises 100 days of work annually for people in urban areas, along the lines of MGNREGA in rural areas.

IRGY beneficiaries at work in Jaipur on Saturday. (Express Photo by Hamza Khan)

Kiran Devi has two daughters, one is about 3 and the other is barely one-and-half-year old. Now, Kiran is seven-month pregnant and for the next two months, but for the next two months, she will be doing physical labour at Khaniyon Ki Baori, a step-well, on the outskirts of Jaipur.

Kiran was among the five women who were handed over job cards by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Friday, at the launch of government’s flagship Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Scheme (IRGY). The scheme promises 100 days of work annually for people in urban areas, along the lines of MGNREGA in rural areas.

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The Scheme is open for people aged 18-60. It promises at least 100 days of employment in a year to those who get registered at e-Mitra centres. The Rajasthan government has allocated Rs 800 crore for the scheme under which it will provide job cards on the lines of MGNREGA. The scheme will cover a range of works, such as tree plantation, maintenance of parks, etc.

“I will work till the eleventh month (of the year, when she will be nine-month pregnant). I can’t rest; I have a baby on the way. What will I feed her?” she says. It has been around five years since she got married and this is her first ever ‘job’. “My husband doesn’t work, he just hangs around with his friends all day. With three kids to look after, I will have to work,” she said.

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So far, she has been managing things somehow with the help from her father-in-law. “Ours is a joint family…there is my brother-in-law and his family too. My father-in-law earns Rs 3,000 per month and he runs the household.”

She will get Rs 259 per day under the IRGY, which, she says, will only meet 50 per cent of her expenses. “But it is still better than sitting at home. My elder daughter had started going to school but couldn’t continue since we didn’t have money to pay for her school fee. The father-in-law can’t pay for everything,” she says.

Apart from Kiran, Gehlot also handed over job cards to Sapna, Rekha, Geeta and Hima; they were introduced simply with the suffix Devi. All five and some others involved in renovation of the step-well, by their accounts, live in abject poverty. Most women involved in the first IRGY work want hike in the daily wage of Rs 259, that their jobs be made permanent and their husbands be taken off liquor.

On her first day at the job, Sapna came empty stomach. “My husband doesn’t work as he has a disability in his legs. Main toh mushkil he mushkil jhel rahi hun, ab nahi jhela jaata (I have been facing hardships and can’t bear it anymore),” she says, holding back tears. At home, she has five mouths to feed, including her three children. She says she can barely afford vegetables for food. “I make tomato chutney and we have roti with it,” she says.

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“I have often contemplated suicide,” says Parvati. “How will this money help? It is very less. My monthly expenses are about Rs 15,000-17,000 because of my medicines. I have asthma, thyroid, and blood pressure issues. The doctor says I have sugar (diabetes), too, but I don’t take medicines for that, since I don’t have money.”

Like most other women involved in Khaniyon Ki Baori renovation, Parvati says her husband, who cleans drains, does not give her any money. “I stop my medicines when short of money. I desperately want my children to study,” she says.

Mira was among the 10 people, announced from the IRGY launch stage, who were to receive job cards from the CM, but eventually only five were given. She might have missed meeting Gehlot and others in person, but she is full of gratitude to the CM. “Ashok Gehlot did a good job and I hope he continues (as CM). Things became very bad after Covid but now we at least have a job. I just hope the daily wage is increased…we all just want to raise our children,” she says.

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Rekha Devi says she used to get Rs 2,000 per month doing jhadu pochha (sweeping and mopping) in households, while her husband cleans gutters. Echoing others on Rs 259 daily wage, she says “madat toh nahi milegi but majboori hai (the money isn’t enough but I’m helpless). I have to bring up kids.” At home, she has four kids, the eldest being a 12-year-old daughter.

Hima Devi was the first woman to receive the IRGY job card from Gehlot.

First published on: 11-09-2022 at 02:08:33 am
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