Other States

Job cards, the sole hope for Assam’s flood-hit

A file photo of a woman rowing a makeshift raft to cross a flooded area, in Assam.

A file photo of a woman rowing a makeshift raft to cross a flooded area, in Assam.  

Dharmeswar Banai of Pub Zira village was one of some 10,000 migrant labourers who returned home in eastern Assam’s Goalpara district, mostly from southern and western India after the nationwide lockdown was clamped on March 25.

Not keen on migrating again for work, he applied for a job card at the central screening centre before the combination of flash flood from the adjoining hills of Meghalaya and a major breach in an embankment on the Brahmaputra devastated the district.

Brittle embankments add to flood woes in Assam

He is among 1,041 such applicants given job cards with a skill test over the past couple of months.

Mr Banai’s village was spared the kind of damage that Sujit Hajong’s village Dhamor Reserve, about 60 km west, suffered. The latter lost his entire paddy crop on about 5 bighas of land, as did most of some 800 families in his village.

Assam has since May 22 lost 109 people to several waves of floods affecting 56.72 lakh people across 5,309 villages and damaging crops on 2.58 lakh hectares. Twelve of the dead were from Goalpara district where 4.70 lakh people — almost 46% of the total population.

“I have lost the entire investment of toil and money for the year. There are hardly any jobs because of this corona and lockdown. The government has promised Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) work, and the job card I have is the only hope now,” said Mr. Hajong.

Goalpara has a total of 142,803 job card holders.

Assam floods affect around 15 lakh people in 23 districts

Most of Goalpara’s job card holders are not sure when they would be engaged in Rural Development (RD) projects. “Such work will have to wait till the flood season is over, it seems,” said Aftabul Ambia, member of district’s Takimari Zilla Parishad.

But RD works such Prime Minister’s housing scheme and MGNREGS have begun in dryer areas, district authorities said.

“We made job card application form available for the returnees upon arrival at the central screening centre. Many of them already had job cards, and 1,041 of the 3,500 non-card holders who applied were issued fresh ones with 287 already being engaged,” Goalpara’s Deputy Commissioner Varnali Deka told The Hindu.

Community projects

“We formed a committee that created a database of skills of the returnees so that RD jobs provided can match their skill sets,” she said.

The standard operating procedure issued by the Panchayat and Rural Development Ministry lists a slew of jobs. But an assessment of the ground situation has made the district authorities focus on a few community projects such fish farming ponds, plantations, peripheral farm bunds and Prime Minister’s rural housing scheme.

Used PPEs wash up in Assam floods, raise concern over COVID-19 spread

“The double blow of COVID-19 and floods impacted several innovative employment generation and educational projects. Still, as an aspirational district, we did better during the lockdown in health and nutrition and other sectors than in February this year,” Ms. Deka said.

Goalpara, one of seven aspirational districts in Assam, has been among the worst flood-hit districts.

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Printable version | Aug 13, 2020 11:33:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/job-cards-the-sole-hope-for-assams-flood-hit/article32243037.ece

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