By Shruti Sinha
Report from an NGO and that from the government doesn’t match, while pointing out the benefits, officials fail to address the difference
Did the daily-wage workers struggle to eat one meal a day, in the wake of the pandemic? Did a laborer die owing to the loss of livelihood due to Covid? The way the Jharkhand state government chose to answer this question, while addressing the press on the occasion of Independence Day, 2021 is way different than the reports put out by the Jharkhand Swabhiman NGO in regards to the Mukhyamantri Shramik Yojana launched a year ago.
Last year, on Independence Day, chief minister Hemant Soren launched the ‘Shramik Yojana’, which was solely dedicated to providing jobs on the lines of the Centre’s rural job scheme. In association with MNREGA, the plan was to offer 100 days of work to urban migrants, who were essentially returning to their native areas owing to job losses after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Within the year of launch of the scheme – in 2021- the Jharkhand government decided to put forth what was supposed to be the positive results of the scheme initiated by the government. According to the Urban Development department, in the last one year, 33,462 applications seeking work were received and 26,243 job cards were generated. “In one year, 2,32,246 man-hours of work were provided, which is a great start for the government”, said Santosh Mahto, an official employed at the office of Urban Development, Government of Jharkhand. He also claimed that the “jobs ranging from plantation to employment in different infrastructure development works especially initiated by the state government were provided under the scheme. What happened with the remaining 7,219 applications? He had no answer.
However, in contrast, a survey initiated by Jharkhand Swabhiman NGO regarding the Mukhyamantri Shramik Yojna reveals the sharp mismatch that has marred the scheme only in the first one year of being launched. One of the officials from the NGO (who did not wish to be named) urged that the number of people who have been granted jobs through this scheme – after one year – is way lower than that reflected in the Jharkhand state government’s bulletin. Swabhiman NGO has recorded only “a couple hundred” jobs received via the Yojna initiated by the state government last year.
On being asked what is the reason behind the confusion over government data and figures from the NGO not matching, the official states, “We have shown them the exact survey reports and continue to send out weekly updated figures. And I don’t see any reason why wrong figures are being reflected. “
Later he also mentions that we do recieve calls for the data and we are providing them with it correctly. Now, it’s up to them to reflect the same in the charts.
On the road, however, waiting under the scorching heat after traveling for hours, the labourers are the ones who are getting crushed under the mammoth mismatch in the reports. It’s them who are facing problems – who have been forced to stay back in their place because they couldn’t pay for train fare to travel forth and back daily – just to bring food for them and their family. That’s where we’ve landed.
Rajesh Singh, who is working on the construction of the Central Mall, Ranchi being developed under the government’s flagship job scheme, says, “We are not aware of this scheme.” A statement that questions both; the veracity of the scheme as well as the fate of the working class veiled under banners that advertise the scheme.
“The severe crisis of employment opportunities in these areas – we are still struggling to find a job with a decent wage, let alone any job security. Getting work for even three days in a week is excruciatingly difficult for us”, he adds.
Like Rajesh Singh, there are countless others who are struggling to make ends meet for their own family – without having any clue about the government’s policy – amidst dwindling prospects for work and the catastrophe that has surfaced since the imposition of a nationwide lockdown. Who is to blame for the mismatch of data and the glorification of the difference? The question remains.