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Above: The new job scheme should assuage the concerns of the youth who constituted an “unemployed army” in the state/Photo: rajendrabpl.blogspot.com

Urban Job Guarantee Scheme of the Congress government will cover 6.5 lakh unemployed youth in urban areas and while it won’t cure the dire joblessness in the state, it has given rise to aspirations

By Rakesh Dixit in Bhopal

In urban version of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) scheme is underway in Madhya Pradesh from February 21. Chief Minister Kamal Nath launched the Yuva Swabhiman Yojana which, like MGNREGA, offers unemployed youth 100 days’ work in a year at a salary of Rs 4,000 per month. This works out to Rs 13,500 to each beneficiary for 100 days annually.

However, the scheme, at best, promises unemployed youth having a family income below Rs 2 lakh a year to live off government dole at subsistence level. To rise from this level, they must acquire some skills to augment their income.

Skill development is provided for in the scheme, but that is for low-paid jobs such as cattle grazing, fabrication, etc. A total of 40 kinds of jobs have been identified for employing poor youth between 21 and 30 years. Other jobs offered include assistant fire operator, assistant storekeeper, caretaker of shelter homes, effluent water treatment plant operator, motor mechanic, electrician, community response person, contract supervisor, courier, glass fitter, garden assistant, JCB driver, JCB helper, driver, dispatch operator, conductor, fireman, photographer, carpenter, billing assistant, mechanic, welder, repairer of office electronic equipment, bill distributor, legal adviser assistant, videographer, store attendant, surveyor, cleanliness assistant and security guard.

Most of these jobs don’t require much education and that is why no education criteria have been fixed for the targeted beneficiaries. Once enrolled, the youth will be given work by civic bodies and undergo 10 days’ essential training simultaneously. The scheme will cover 6.5 lakh unemployed youth in urban areas. They have to work four to five hours daily. The objective of the scheme is to increase the employment ratio in urban areas because, according to the state census, there are 2.4 million unemployed people in Madhya Pradesh. Every seventh house in the state has an unemployed person. The registration process for this scheme began on February 10, 2019.

Umesh Patel, 26, is trained as an electrician from Industrial Training Institute (ITI), Bhopal, and is employed in an electrical shop for the last two years. He has enrolled in the urban employment scheme, and hopes to be called by some companies in future. “I manage to earn more than the scheme offers, but want a permanent job,” he told India Legal.

Piyush Tiwari of Rewa is a postgraduate and without a job for the last four years. He, too, has enrolled to seek professional training in some skill on offer under the scheme. He says the scheme is “something better than nothing”.

The Congress government has touted the scheme as revolutionary, but its scope in terms of number and quality of jobs on offer only partially addresses the huge unemployment problem that plagues the state. Reasonably satisfactory employment creation through industrial growth is still a far cry.

The state government is reeling under a staggering debt of Rs 1.90 lakh crore. Industrial growth is below four percent. Jobs in the government sector have suffered constant attrition year after year in the last two decades. Vyapam, the biggest job-cum-admission racket under the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, badly hit the credibility of the state in all job creation sectors. Many big industrial projects announced by the previous government have remained non-starters. The half-a-dozen investors’ meets have yielded poor results. Less than 10 percent of the Memorandum of Understandings signed at these extravagant meets came up to implementation level. Industrial towns such as Peethampur, near Indore, or Mandideep, near Bhopal, are in the grip of severe recession.

The chief minister is aware of this grim reality and considers the Yuva Swabhiman Yojana a starter for dealing with rampant unemployment. He indicated this while announcing the scheme on Republic Day in Chhindwara: “Under the new scheme, the unemployed will get Rs 4,000 stipend per month during 100 days’ period. During this period, they will be given skill development training, so that they become independent. The government will also invite companies to provide full-time employment to the trained youths under the scheme.”

The government has also changed its industrial policy to create opportunities for the state’s youth. A clause has been incorporated under the policy for industries that they will get state government incentives only if they hire 70 percent staff from Madhya Pradesh. And during a meeting with industrialists on February 21, the chief minister emphasised the precondition that investors should provide jobs if they want incentives from the government.

The BJP, however, said there is nothing new in this scheme. “The Shivraj Singh government had also earmarked 70 percent jobs to residents of Madhya Pradesh in its industrial policy and most other states also follow this provision,” said Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. Other BJP leaders, including Chouhan, have also dismissed the provision for jobs to local youth as just hogwash.

The Congress has countered the BJP’s scepticism by asking why unemployment was so rampant under the Chouhan government. “The BJP failed to give jobs to youth and now when we are sincerely working to address this acute crisis, it is trying to rubbish our efforts,” said state Congress spokesman Bhupendra Gupta.

It is a fact that despite all the tall claims about industrial growth, the previous government failed to provide jobs to local youth. Statistics evidence the harrowing situation during the BJP’s 15-year rule. According to government data, in Madhya Pradesh, out of 14.1 lakh registered unemployed youth, 12.90 lakh are educated. The number of unemployed went up from 79.60 percent in 2015 to 85.74 percent by December 31, 2016.

However, according to information furnished in the state assembly in 2018, the Chouhan government created an average 17,600 jobs in the last 14 years. Unemployment is so rampant that for 200 posts of peons that the state government advertised in 2017, 1.31 lakh applications were received. Among them were PhDs, engineers and postgraduates, though the educational qualification for the post was just Class VIII pass.

The Congress had relentlessly highlighted the acute dearth of jobs in the run-up to the assembly elections in November last year. The party also promised to offer Rs 4,000 per month unemployment allowance to the unemployed in its election manifesto. The job guarantee scheme is an improvement on the Congress’s election promise. The manifesto did not mention jobs to the potential beneficiaries. It was only after the Congress came to power that the chief minister revised the promise to make it look like the MGNREGA. While this promise may not be a panacea to cure joblessness, it has kindled hopes among the unemployed belonging to the economically weaker sections.

State Urban Administration Minister Jaivardhan Singh told India Legal that more than 1.5 lakh urban youth have so far registered themselves for this scheme. Government sources said the target of enrolling 6.5 lakh youth would be achieved before the Lok Sabha election starts. The Congress is keen to showcase the Yuva Swabhiman Yojana along with loan waiver for farmers as its two biggest achievements in elections.

However, providing quality jobs to the unemployed youth still appears a pipe dream in the state.

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