The Opposition parties on Thursday panned the announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for migrant workers calling out the government for being insensitive towards the sufferings of those who are trudging back hundreds of kilometres to return to their homes.
Citing Ms. Sitharaman’s announcement that migrant workers will be provided with jobs under the Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury called it a callous joke and an attempt at hoodwinking the public. “There are eight crore migrant workers as per Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, so if the promise is that every migrant worker will get a job the moment they return to their village under the MGNREGS, at the rate of ₹202 per day of wages, this amounts to just 2.2 days of work for every migrant worker in the whole year as per their current allocation,” Mr. Yechury told The Hindu .
Ms. Sitharaman had said the government had generated 14.62 crore man days of work up to May 13 under the MGNREGS, which is 40-50% higher than previous May. She said there was a drive being undertaken to enrol returning migrants.
“There are no fiscal stimulus, these are just monetary policy issues. Bulk of the announcements are essentially providing loans whether it is for street vendors or housing loans for the urban poor or farmers,” Mr. Yechury added. The announcement of five kg of grain and one kg of pulses per family of migrant workers without ration cards was too meagre.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’ Brien said that after announcing the lockdown with just four-hour notice, abandoning the migrant workers, the government was now shedding crocodile tears. “West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced ration for non-ration card holders on March 30 and now 45 days later the Centre is embracing it. It was a power (no) point presentation,” he said.
Rashtriya Janta Dal MP Manoj Jha said the announcement made by the Finance Minister again was on the predictable lines of this government. “They try to overwhelm people by numbers and skirt the critical issues and areas. Why the government has decided to choose the ‘easy loan corridor’ when it could have handed them over guaranteed money for at least coming five to six months,” Mr. Jha said. He demanded that the government immediately increase the number of man-days under the MGNREGS and double the wages. “Why no concrete measure to cover all non-income tax payee households? While it is noticeable that finally States have brought to the Centre of fight against corona and other concerns emanating out of it. There is conspicuous silence on the hand-holding patterns to be followed,” he added.
BSP MP Danish Ali said the government failed to make an intervention to save thousands of migrant workers who were trudging back home, many of them getting killed in road and train accidents. “There is absolutely no intention to help the migrant workers,” he said.
CPI general secretary D. Raja called it a jugglery of statistics and political rhetoric with no substantial announcement. “There was no mention of providing relief to the urban poor. The Finance Minister is talking about providing the migrant workers a job once they reach the villages, how will they reach? There is no answer to that. There are no jobs in the cities or in the villages and the government is insensitive towards the suffering of the poor,” he said.