A file photo of migrant workers cycling to Chhattisgarh from Prayagraj during the lockdown. | Photo: ANI
A file photo of migrant workers cycling to Chhattisgarh from Prayagraj during the lockdown | Photo: ANI
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Raipur: The Bhupesh Baghel government is working on a comprehensive employment plan in Chhattisgarh to provide permanent jobs to about 7 lakh migrant labourers who have returned to the state during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Under this plan, the government will carry out a skill mapping exercise, provide them suitable jobs in its labour-intensive state departments, hold recruitment rallies after the monsoon, sign agreements with central public sector units for jobs outside the state, and amend labour laws, said officials in the Chhattisgarh labour department.

The skill mapping exercise has already begun, collecting data of 2.5 lakh workers who have returned from outside during the lockdown and have either completed the quarantine or will do so soon, said the officials.

The government will also soon sign memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with central public sector undertakings (PSUs) like the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the NBCC (India) Ltd, the officials said told ThePrint.

It is also looking to amend labour laws and the Migrant Workers Act, 1979 to provide maximum employment opportunities to the local workers in the state’s own departments, agencies, non-government businesses and industries.

The local industry has expressed happiness over this plan to provide more employment to migrant workers within the state, pledging its support. Workers are also enthusiastic about it, saying they would like to take advantage of employment in the state if that’s possible.


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Skill mapping — ‘methodical database’

According to the Chhattisgarh labour department officials, information under the skill mapping exercise has been collected from 2.5 lakh workers, and the process to map the remaining workers will be completed soon.

Chhattisgarh Labour Secretary Sonmani Borah said the migrant workers are being classified into different categories according to their skill-sets. This will help the government in giving them more attention and train them further.

The exercise is being carried out under Borah’s supervision.

“The main objective of skill mapping is to prepare a methodical database of the workers of the state as well as to work on their skill development, and then to certify it,” he said. On the certification aspect, Borah said the government “does not need to do much on this count”.

“The workers have already acquired skills in their specific sectors. The government will issue them a certificate after a short term refresher course, so that their skills can get some kind of recognition. It will immensely help them in getting fresh employment,” he said.

According to him, the exercise done so far has revealed that about 50 per cent of the workers are involved in construction work, 30 per cent have experience in brick kilns, and the other 20 per cent are those who work in sectors like agriculture, electrical work, garments industry, hospitality, health, security, logistics and manufacturing, among others.

Borah said this is the first time that an authentic database of workers has been prepared in the state.

“After this, the entire set of information about the workers will be permanently with the government and apart from providing them suitable employment, they can be contacted anytime. In the future it will just have to be updated,” he said.

Borah also highlighted the role the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) played in providing these workers jobs. He said 27 lakh laborers, including migrants, received work in the state under the NREGA this year after the relaxation of the lockdown.

However, he added that NREGA cannot be a permanent system as its time-frame is fixed.

Additionally, there are 2 lakh workers who have returned on their own without the government’s assistance. The government is also collecting more information on them.


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Work in the state, recruitment rallies

According to Borah, the Chhattisgarh government is working on ensuring that workers get jobs in the state itself. He said an order to this effect will soon be issued to all the departments.

“Apart from state government departments like public works department, irrigation, transport and other labour intensive infrastructure projects, all the undertakings of the state will soon be issued orders by the government to give priority to local labourers in their projects,” he said.

Borah said this plan prepared by their department will assist over 60 per cent labourers find jobs in the state.

A second labour department official said preparations are being made to include provisions for initiation of legal action if any government department and undertaking doesn’t comply with the order to be issued. The provisions of the labour laws and the Migrant Workers Act, 1979 will be implemented strictly for the betterment of the workers, said the official.

The officials didn’t give details about the planned amendments to these laws.

The labour secretary said recruitment rallies for laborers identified through the process of skill mapping will be held in all districts after the monsoon. “It has been instructed by the industry department that the district magistrates concerned, in association with the industry houses of the state, should organise a recruitment rally for local workers according to their skills,” said Borah.

MoUs with BRO and NBCC

The state government is also preparing to soon sign MoUs with select central government and non-government institutions so that workers migrating from the state can get employment and other facilities in these enterprises on priority basis.

“We cannot stop the workers willing to migrate but after the events experienced during corona lockdown, the government wants to ensure that they are able to get proper environment and socio-economic security,” he said.

“For this, as part of a new initiative, the state government is going to formally sign MoUs with the BRO and the NBCC (India) Ltd for the welfare of workers of the state. Apart from this, the National Highway Department of Government of India will also be included in this process,” he said.

Labourers will be recruited after the monsoon as most of them are engaged in agrarian activities currently.


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What the workers and industry say

Manoj Bhaskar, who returned to his home in Matanar village of Dantewada from East Godavari area of Telangana along with his brother Vinod Bhaskar, said, “If the government makes any arrangement for our employment then we will definitely take advantage of it.”

Bhaskar said his siblings and he go to Telangana to pluck chillies. “If the government provides employment, then what can be better than this?”

Nityanand Malakar of Saraipali village in Raigarh district also wants to work in his state if there is opportunity.

“Even we do not like going far away from our houses for a salary of Rs 10,000 only, but we are forced to do so. If the government genuinely does something for our employment then nothing can be better than this because then I will be able to stay here with my parents and sister,” said Nityanand, who used to work in Haldiram’s factory in Nagpur.

“I had received a call from the government. They provided me phone numbers of a certain firm in Raipur but I could not go due to corona,” he added.

Balram Sahu of Dantewada’s Halba-Kachora village, who works as a mason in Hyderabad, also said he received a call from an officer that he would get work.

“If the government gives any kind of employment, then I will not have to leave my family behind in order to travel to Hyderabad again for work. I have returned after great sufferings and do not want to go outstation again. Even if I get less money, I will like to work in my own area,” he said.

Ashwin Garg, industrialist and president, Urla Industries Association in Raipur, said, “We will take part in every recruitment process or exercise by the government for the benefit of migrant workers and other down trodden sections of the society.

“This will not only help migrant workers but also provide industry good and skilled hands from within the state. This will be a good deal as service and support will coming from the government,” he said.


Also read: I feed a surrendered Naxal mutton, liquor, track his woman. Dantewada is not Delhi


 

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