Express Illustration.
Express Illustration.

TN job scheme finds no takers in Chennai

Beneficiaries said they would prefer working in nurseries or plantation as desilting drains is tedious.

CHENNAI: Two years after the Tamil Nadu Urban Employment Scheme was introduced in corporations and municipalities in the state, it has been silently shelved in Chennai as there are no takers for the scheme due to the paltry wage paid under it.

While the Chennai Corporation has returned the unspent amount of Rs 10 crore allotted to it under the scheme last year to the Directorate of Municipal Administration, other corporations and municipalities have utilised their allocated funds but will not receive new allocations from this year, sources said. The scheme, however, will continue in town panchayats.

According to officials, the primary reason for the failure of the scheme is the wage paid under the scheme which was lower than the market rate. Corporation sources said they were not able to get more people to enrol for the scheme as the maximum daily wage of Rs 382 is too meagre a sum in Chennai.

The maximum wage of Rs 382 is paid for removing one cubic metre of silt from the drains in one day. If the beneficiaries fail to achieve the target, the wages would be reduced proportionately. Beneficiaries said they would prefer working in nurseries or plantation as desilting drains is tedious.

The scheme was started with 500 beneficiaries in Chennai. The city corporation had engaged them for desilting storm water drains in two zones where the scheme was introduced on a pilot basis in 2022 and 2023. This year, the corporation has gone back to its usual system of awarding the work to contractors after floating tenders in February for desilting work in these zones.

‘Work load too heavy for elderly people, women’

The State Planning Commission, following a rapid assessment of the scheme, said the work load for the wage paid could be too heavy, especially for women and senior citizens.

The commission also said that there was scope to explore the possibility of offering other kinds of unskilled work to beneficiaries such as construction and maintenance of community assets. It also said the upper age limit of 60 could also be extended.

Official sources said there were instances of caste based allocation of work in some areas. The scheme is now being carried out in 87 town panchayats with a daily wage of Rs 300. In these town panchayats, 1.48 lakh job cards have been issued so far. The beneficiaries are employed for deepening of ponds, strengthening bunds, cleaning inlets and outlets, and tree plantation.

The directorate, which got initial allocation of Rs 27 crore, has now received an additional Rs 10.37 crore. Besides, the beneficiary from one ward is also free to work anywhere within the particular town panchayat. Beneficiaries are also allowed to continue work even after the completion of minimum 100 days. But even here, the scheme faces challenges, sources said. For instance, the wages are paid after a weekly ‘measurement’ of the work. This created friction between the beneficiaries and the engineers.

“Masons, in town panchayats, get around Rs 600 a day. Sometimes, when the work is measured and found unsatisfactory, they are paid only Rs 150 to Rs 250 which the beneficiaries don’t accept,” said an official. The scheme was launched to guarantee basic minimum wages in urban local bodies along the lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

The New Indian Express