KOLKATA: Highlighting the massive loss of livelihood in rural areas due to the Covid crisis, the West Bengal government has received over 10 lakh requests for job cards under the Centre’s rural employment scheme in a one-and-half month period.
In April-May last year during the Covid-induced lockdown, 2.2 lakh applications were received for job cards under MGNREGS. Bengal saw the arrival of 14 lakh migrant workers from various states after the country went under lockdown.
As for the present numbers, government data showed a total of 2.21 crore people had visited 21,057 camps set up special camps set up in municipal and panchayat areas from December 1 to January 18. Of these visitors, 10,10,224 applied for job cards under MGNREGS.
The camps were set up for the state’s public outreach programme Duare Sarkar, which aims to bring 11 state schemes such as Swastha Sathi, Khadya Sathi, and Kanyashree scheme to the doorsteps of the people.
Sources in the state secretariat said a major chunk of the job-seekers are migrant workers who could not join their workplace and failed to get employment. “Many of the migrants informed the local administration in districts that they could not go back to their workplaces because operation at those places came to a halt,” said an official.
“Around 3.81 lakh migrant workers were issued new job cards since April. None of the migrant workers had enlisted their names in the existing family job cards. The large numbers indicate that the problem is deeper,” he added.
While the state has 1.39 crore MGNREGS card holders ever since the scheme was launched in 2007. The state has already created 34 crore man-days under the scheme exceeding the initial approved target of 22 crore.
“Other than migrant workers, a large section of workers in rural Bengal lost their livelihood after lockdown period. Some of them were running small shops which are not securing earnings. Some were working with some local units like rice mills and lost their jobs in the post-lockdown period as the mills are being run with lesser employees,’’ said another official.