Calcutta, Aug. 28: The cabinet is expected to approve tomorrow a hurriedly drawn up scheme to fulfil Mamata Banerjee’s promise of giving a monthly dole of Rs 1,500 to unemployed youths.
Finance minister Amit Mitra had announced the Yuva Utsaha Prokolpo (Youth Encouragement Scheme) while tabling the 2013-14 budget. He had said 1 lakh unemployed people aged between 18 and 45 years would get the assistance.
Although the finance minister did not mention how much the scheme would cost the state exchequer, senior officials said the annual outgo would be Rs 180 crore.
“The scheme is expected to be launched in October. This means the outgo will be Rs 90 crore for the six months till the end of this fiscal. The money will come from the labour department’s plan head,” an official said.
Sources in the state secretariat said the chief minister was uphappy with the labour department for failing to finalise the list of beneficiaries even after five months of the announcement of the scheme. The department is supposed to steer the scheme. Eligible candidates had been asked to enrol themselves with the employment bank portal managed by the department.
“With time running out, the chief minister prodded the department to launch the scheme before the Pujas,” a labour department official said, adding that Mamata planned to distribute cheques to some youths on October 3 at Netaji Indoor Stadium.
But some officials The Telegraph spoke to said the scheme had not been properly planned and several questions remained unanswered.
Primarily, it has been decided that all unemployed people who have passed Class VIII and are aged between 18 and 45 years will be eligible for the scheme provided they enrol themselves with the labour department’s employment bank portal.
Some officials said a family income cut-off should have been put in place to ensure that the benefits reached the most needy.
“How can a poor person and an affluent person be treated alike? This assistance is ideal for the poor. As we won’t be able to strike affluent candidates off the list, many poor but eligible people could be left out,” an official said.
Some officials also pointed out the digital divide in Bengal, which might give an undue advantage to urban youths with access to the Internet as the registration process was online.
“There are thousands of villages in Bengal with no electricity and Internet facilities. What will happen to the unemployed people from these areas?” the officer said.
Some officials said there was no clear rule on how to select 1 lakh beneficiaries from the pool of applicants that has already touched 18 lakh.
In the absence of any rule, the selection of beneficiaries could be ad hoc. The website did not even have any “date of registration” column till two months ago.
The portal was launched in July 2012 and more than 10 lakh people had applied before the column was included in the portal.
“Ideally, those who applied first should get the benefit. Now it will be really tough to find out who are the first 1 lakh applicants,” the official said. “People with political connections may have an edge over others as there are no rules,” he added.
Duration of benefit
The labour department had announced that a candidate would get the benefit for two years. It had also announced that as both public and private sector companies would recruit from the government’s employment bank, new beneficiaries would be included as and when those already on the list get jobs.
“Officials can at the most track a candidate when he or she joins a government job. But what if one joins a private company and continues to enjoy the dole?” the official added.
He said no steps had so far been taken to extend the benefit to more unemployed youths as the government had planned.