BHUBANESWAR: Even as the Odisha government claimed to have started skill mapping of migrant workers who returned to the State, it is yet to make details of the exercise public. And in the absence of employment other than that available under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) which is primarily meant for unskilled labourers, many workers have started returning for their original place of work.
About seven lakh people returned to Odisha because of the extended lockdown imposed throughout the country after the COVID-19 outbreak. The government had planned to create 20 crore mandays under MGNREGS by digging 1.3 lakh ponds to provide livelihood support to the migrant workers. However, Government has failed to provide them employment as announced.
Besides, silence of Government on the issue even in its daily briefings has raised several questions. Is there an agency which is solely responsible for skill mapping of the migrant workers? Has the Government developed a format to know how many of the returnees are skilled, semi-skilled and un-skilled? No one knows.
As per the official statistics, the State Government till date has paid a total incentive of over Rs 106 crore to the migrant returnees who have successfully completed 14 day institutional quarantine. This means more than 5.3 lakh migrant workers received incentive of Rs 2000 each. Though such a large number of migrants returned to the State, Government has not set up any institutional mechanism to put it to policy decisions.
Several states including Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have started rehabilitating migrant workers who returned to their states by making arrangements to absorb them in jobs in tune with their capabilities. While Madhya Pradesh government set up a commission for the purpose, its Chhattisgarh counterpart has done a detailed skill mapping of the returnees.
As migrant workers were mostly from textile, apparel and garment sectors, State Government is planning to make a push on that side.
Labour Commissioner N Thirumala Naik claimed that the Odisha Government has already started skill mapping of migrant workers. The categories include brick kiln and construction sector which has been divided into 20 sub-categories and the spinning sector. Skill mapping revealed that 1.4 lakh construction workers returned to the State while in the spinning sector, 80,000 labourers came back. he said.
The Labour Commissioner added that State Government will soon launch a web portal with complete details about workers and their skills. It will be easier for the industries to employ workers to suit their requirements, he said.
Umi Daniel, Director, migration and education, Aide et Action International, however, said as Government has not made anything public about the skill mapping exercise till now, labourers are in dark about their future and returning to their places of work.