Two days after the Centre’s approval, the state government said it was preparing to resume projects under the rural employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA.
State Minister for Panchayat and Rural Development Subrata Mukherjee told The Indian Express that migrant workers will be allowed to apply for jobs if they are residents of the state.
“Yes, the work will begin soon. A large number of people are engaged in works under MGNREGA. We have already directed all District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police to resume works. However, they have to wear masks, and keep distance from each other,” said Mukherjee.
On Wednesday, the Centre had issued guidelines for enforcing the second phase of the nationwide lockdown in which MGNREGA projects are allowed, provided social distancing rules are followed and labourers wear face masks. The Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) guarantees 100 days of wage employment to every household in rural areas in a financial year.
According to the Ministry of Rural Development, there are 1.25 crore job card holders, out of which 81 lakh are active in Bengal as of April 17. Employment under this scheme has been provided to around 61 lakh households.
However, the return of migrant labourers to the state following the nationwide lockdown is expected to amplify the demand for such jobs.
Mukherjee, however, said panchayats would take the final call on giving jobs to migrant labourers under the scheme. “There is some legal complexity when it comes to offering MGNREGA works to migrant labourers. As per the rule, a person must be a resident of the area where he is seeking to work. We have left it to our panchayats to decide on this. But that person will have to be a resident of the state to get the job.”
Meanwhile, a senior state government officer said the Centre’s guidelines on social distancing and face masks would be strictly followed while restarting projects under the scheme.