Lucknow: The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh on Friday announced its decision to not credit Rs 1,000 into the bank accounts of those migrant workers who were returning to big cites to reclaim their old jobs, as the “lockdown is over”.
The government has ordered the removal of the names of such workers from the list of "identified workers", who were to be provided with financial assistance in the second phase of the scheme. On the occasion of International Labour Day, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had announced an assistance of Rs 1000 each to over 30 lakh migrant workers who had left their livelihood behind during the lockdown and had returned to their respective hometowns, through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme.
In mid-June, CM Yogi Adityanath had claimed that his government has made an online transfer of Rs 104.82 crore to 10.48 lakh families of migrants workers in the first phase of the scheme, giving assistance of Rs 1,000 to each family under DBT.
However, according to an official release, over eight lakh migrants have been identified as beneficiaries of this relief measure by the state’s urban development department for the second phase of the exercise. Fresh instructions have been issued to district magistrates that no assistance of Rs 1,000 shall be given to workers returning to other states to their old workplace; a decree is in place to remove names of those who return, from the list.
Street vendors, auto drivers, rickshaw pullers, e-rickshaw drivers and porters working at agricultural wholesale markets are among the beneficiaries.
Several migrant workers that NewsClick spoke to said they had not received any such assistance from the government, and those who left to Mumbai, Delhi, Surat and other big cites after spending almost three months in UP did not get money from the government either.
"Neither did I get any ration kit nor any money from the government in three months of the lockdown, and I am not alone. There are so many poor people like me in my village in Partapur who haven't got any assistance. I was a painter in Bengaluru and used to earn good money before the lockdown but ever since I returned to my village I am forced to work as a construction worker as there are no jobs for us here," said Nagina, a migrant worker of Partapur village in Gorakhpur, Adityanath's native district. Nagina is miffed that the CM has not come up with a special package for migrant workers. “If it's free and workers are getting Rs 1,000, why not me?” asked Nagina.
Ajay Kumar, another villager who returned from Ghaziabad two months ago, alleged that his village head is issuing job cards and money only to those close to him. “There is no improvement in our situation since we returned, as we are still jobless,” he said adding that he would return to Ghaziabad once things are back to normal.
The migrant workforce, which returned to their hometowns in haste amid the lockdown due to COVID-19, has gradually started returning to their workplaces in search of jobs. The increasing number of workers looking for jobs has raised the labour participation rate, but unavailability of sufficient work for them has shot up the unemployment rate in the country.
Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Award winner and social activist, who has been surveying how many workers got financial assistance worth Rs 1,000 from the UP government, said: “None of the migrant workers who are in touch with us have received a single rupee till now. I don't know which people received Rs 1,000 from the government. We have done two surveys so far, in Unnao and Sitapur. Shockingly, out of 125 migrant workers, only one person has received Rs 1,000."
Pandey alleged that the Yogi government has transferred the amount only to those only who either took a government bus or the train. He said those workers have been placed on the list. Those that came on trucks, in private buses or walked, are not in the list. “Yogi Adityanath arranged buses for stranded migrant workers to ferry them back home very late, when almost a huge chunk of migrants had already returned to their native hometowns on their own expense. The point is why have they not been included in the list," asked Pandey.
Nandlal Master, the Director of Lok Samiti, an organisation working for the rights of labourers who works in the unorganised sector in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency of Varanasi, said the situation of migrant workers is grim. “We did a baseline survey in Varanasi on 1,394 migrant workers and tried to know the reality of what the government is claiming – that they are giving out ration cards and MGNREGA job cards to every migrant worker. However, our data says something entirely different. Out of 1,395 workers, only 24 people have been registered in the labour department and received help from the government. The rest of the people got nothing," he added.
He said that as part of their survey, they asked how many of them want to return to big cities to reclaim their old jobs. Over 50.9% of the migrants expressed their wish to return to Mumbai, Delhi and other metro cities where they used to work earlier. “I don't know who are the migrants who received Rs 1,000 from the government. As per my survey barely anyone got assistance," said Nandlal, adding that the spike in the unemployment rate showed that a growing number of job seekers were left disappointed as they could not find jobs.
According to him, the government should have made ration cards for those migrants who do not have it and registered those in the labour department who had not been registered as yet. However, he said, the migrant workers were left to run from pillar to post.