June 8, 2020 1:32:24 am
Samsul Alom (20), a tailor, returned to Barpeta in west Assam from Tamil Nadu on Saturday after working at a factory near Chennai for the past six months. Business was hit by the lockdown, and “when the factory reopened a few weeks back, after a day’s work, we would have to sit idle for three,” said Alom, who is now lodged at a quarantine centre.
Nearly 1.25 lakh migrant workers have returned to Assam, according to a senior state official. Over 2.5 lakh people have returned so far to the state which has seen a sudden spike in the number of Covid cases — a total of 2,565 at the time of filing this report.
“Poor workers like us have to go out of the state to search for work. Maybe after the economy recovers, I will have to go back again. But if the state government manages to accommodate us, I will stay back,” Alom said over the phone.
To absorb thousands of workers like Alom, Assam government officials said that they have taken up a multi-pronged strategy, including building a database of returning workers right at the panchayat level and lobbying to get Japanese, American and European companies, who want to move out of China, to set up base in the state.
An initiative titled SAMPARKA (Software Application for Migrated People to Assam for Rejuvenating Karma Abhiyan) was recently initiated to systematically capture data of returning migrant workers.
“Data about all workers coming back will be collected from the panchayat level. The data will comprise various parameters like when they returned, from where they returned, what did they work as, whether they hold MGNREGA job cards and would they like to work under MGNREGA and for what industries are their skillset suitable for. The data will be shared with government departments for further action and policy making,” JB Ekka, Principal Secretary of Panchayat and Rural Development department, told The Indian Express.
“So, we can engage people under MGNREGA or share their information with relevant industries who can employ them. Moreover, we will also track these persons in the coming days — whether they still have a job or are they still at home,” Ekka said.
Registration for SAMPARKA began a few days back and nearly 200 workers have been enlisted so far. “Most of the returnee workers are still under quarantine. Once they are out, registrations will shoot up,” Ekka said.
According to Assam government data, the state’s 66,000 industries, largely in the MSME sector, contribute 39% to the state GDP.
“Government is talking to industries regarding what kind of skills they need. Skill development training will also be facilitated in coordination with the state’s Skill Development Mission,” said K K Dwivedi, Commissioner and Secretary, Industries and Commerce department.
Returnees are now able to register on a recently launched digital portal named ‘Sudakhya’ and apply for skill development training.
Assam is also eyeing Japanese, European, American and Korean companies who want to move out of China. “We are trying to turn these challenging times into an opportunity,” Dwivedi said.
The Assam government is in talks with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), and other European and American bodies. A 600-acre plot of land has also been chosen for a proposed Japanese industrial township.
“There is much ease in movement to the Southeast Asian countries through Assam because of the state’s location. That way Assam has a huge advantage. We are aggressively trying pitching for more business opportunities,” Dwivedi said. He said Bangladesh allowing India to use the Chittagong and Mongla sea ports will immensely help businesses which set up base here.
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