The state has been at the forefront of caring for the poor in these trying times
By Subodh Agarwal
When the COVID-19 pandemic proliferated in Rajasthan, the state government was quick to adopt a two-pronged approach. Rajasthan has a sizeable inter-state and intra-state migrant population. The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has led to an unprecedented mass exodus of migrant workers from cities to the rural areas.
To address this issue, the state government arranged inter-state buses to ferry migrant workers back to their hometowns. The administration also started a Corona War Room Helpline. The ‘Shramik Special Bus’ is operating and ensuring that the best possible help is provided to the stranded labourers. The government is adhering to its promise of ‘#KoiBhookhaNaSoye’ and ‘#NotoFootMovement’ initiatives.
All those wanting to come back to the state have to register. In order to ensure jobs and to jumpstart the industry, the Rajasthan government launched ‘Raj Kaushal’ portal/mobile app, a centralised manpower repository that connects migrant workers and other employees to the state’s industries. The first-of-its-kind portal has a database of more than 50 lakh citizens categorised as per skill set and work experience, and 11 lakh registered businesses. Gram panchayats are making arrangements to accommodate the workforce. There are over 2.86 lakh MSMEs in Rajasthan, employing over 11 lakh people. The Chief Minister’s Small Scale Industries Promotion Scheme, MSME Act and the Rajasthan Investment Promotion Scheme 2019 have been declared as flagship programmes. The government also created fair-price shops that sell all essentials, medicines and hygiene products. A WhatsApp helpline has also been created to register complaints regarding hoarding, black marketing, and overpricing. To take care of the needy and the underprivileged, the government announced free supply of wheat to all families under the NFSA.
To provide inclusive financial security to all amidst these trying times, the government had released two months of social security pension to all 78 lakh beneficiaries. Further, 36.51 lakh BPL, state BPL, and Antyodaya scheme beneficiaries, along with 25 lakh construction labourers and registered street vendors who are not currently covered under the social security pension scheme, were given a one-time relief amount of Rs 1,000. The district collectors identified the families in need, and cash was provided to 30.81 lakh people.
Even those who do not have a bank account and fall under BPL were covered in the scheme. Moreover, around 5 lakh children are getting benefits of the Palanhar Yojana. Rajasthan is the first state to provide a medical insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh to all families of government employees, including frontline health workers. The government is also providing free medicines to those who are above 60 and those suffering from certain chronic ailments.
The Rajasthan government has distributed Rs 60 crore (approximately Rs 50,000 per Panchayati Raj Institution) to manage the pandemic at the local level. The need now is to make the containment strategies more robust and further strengthen the rural and local healthcare infrastructure.
The author is Additional chief secretary, industries, Rajasthan Government and Head of state-level committee for inter-state migration.