Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday announced a series of steps to check distress migration from the state, particularly in pockets of Bargarh, Bolangir, Nuapada and Kalahandi districts.
The move comes after a government-recognised survey revealed that close to 40,000 people had migrated to neighbouring states from just 30 gram panchayats of Bolangir and Nuapada districts in “one migration season”, a source in the state Labour Department said.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Patnaik government stated that employment under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will be allowed for 200 days in a year in 20 vulnerable blocks of four districts. Labourers in these areas will be given Rs 286.30 as wage under MGNREGA, the government stated.
“Odisha has MGNREGA rate of Rs 188 (per day) and the new rate has a hike of Rs 100. It is a welcome experiment. But the bigger problem is that distress migration is a statewide problem, not just in four districts,” livelihood activist Umi Daniel said, listing other districts such as Gajapati, Kandhamal and Boudh.
On average, Odisha districts generate only 35 days of work out of the mandated 100 days per year, Daniel said.
The government also announced a corpus of Rs 500 crore to ensure “timely and uninterrupted payments under MGNREGA”. In the 20 identified blocks, gram panchayats will be covered as intensive gram panchayats under Odisha Livelihoods Mission. Each family in these areas will be brought under the ambit of self-help groups (SHGs), which in turn will be provided community investment fund and vulnerability reduction funds.
All SHG members will also be covered by insurance, the statement says.
Some of the identified SHGs in the 20 blocks in question will be declared as banking correspondents to make cash available for migrant workers in distress.
The state government has also decided to focus on skill development in these areas, declaring that one eligible youth in each household, between 18 and 35 years, will be covered under placement-linked skill development programme. Eligible households will also be given pucca houses, the government has decided.
In September, a full bench of Odisha Human Rights Commission had sought a response from the Labour Department on steps taken to stop the scourge of bonded labour in the state’s underdeveloped areas.
The government will undertake a drive to register construction workers under the Odisha Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board. Admissible benefits for them include marriage assistance, pension, education assistance. The state government will also deploy Shramik Mitras for migrant workers in the 20 gram panchayats.