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Regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 April 2024

Odisha job scheme to help the urban poor

The programme kick offs on Monday in all the urban areas of Odisha and will continue till September

Subhashish Mohanty Bhubaneswar Published 18.04.20, 10:09 PM
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik File picture

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday announced a Rs 100-crore “urban wage employment initiative programme” that aims to provide relief to the lockdown-hit, livelihood-deprived urban poor.

Several labour-intensive projects, such as sanitation drives, will be undertaken in urban areas under this initiative to provide employment opportunities to the poor. A minister described the programme as a sort of urban counterpart to the rural job scheme.

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The programme kick offs on Monday in all the urban areas of Odisha and will continue till September, housing and urban development minister Pratap Jena said.

Its announcement implies the state would relax some of the lockdown restrictions, although officials stressed that social-distancing and mask-wearing would be strictly enforced at the project sites.

“If a particular zone is declared a containment zone following the detection of new coronavirus-positive cases, labour-intensive projects will be undertaken in other areas of the city,” a senior official said.

“For the rural poor, work is available under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. But there is no scheme at present for the urban poor, who are mostly labourers,” minister Jena said.

So, he said, this scheme has been launched. “Under the scheme, labour-intensive work will be done in 114 urban local bodies from April to September in association with the Mission Shakti department (which assists women’s self-help groups),” Jena said.

“Nearly 4.5 lakh urban families will benefit from this scheme. The money will come solely from the state exchequer. Women’s self-help groups will be drafted into the scheme. Each beneficiary’s wages will be credited to his or her bank account every week.”

Officials said the projects would include cleaning drains, reclaiming water bodies, remodelling playgrounds, beautifying parks, building toilets and planting trees. “Apart from labourers, the artisans are facing hard times too. Local artisans will be engaged in wall painting and mural painting under the city beautification drive,” an official said.

G. Mathivathanan, principal secretary, housing and urban development, told The Telegraph: “The programme will be implemented from April 20. Although the lockdown is still May 3, several restrictions will be relaxed from April 20.” However, government sources clarified, the labourers will have to wear masks and maintain social distancing at the sites, and will be provided with hand-sanitisers.

Sources said the chief minister’s private secretary, V.K. Pandian, was touring the districts and meeting labourers to learn about their problems.

They said Pandian had assured both local and migrant labourers that the government would address their concerns in a sympathetic manner.

The government has decided to impose a complete ban on all tobacco products and on spitting at the project sites.

Labourers aged above 60 and those showing symptoms such as sneezing or cough would not be engaged. “If workers are required from outside, special transport facilities will be arranged by the contractors, construction agency without dependency on public transport,” a government notification said on Saturday.

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