Representational Image | Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is all set to launch a welfare board for the workers enrolled in the employment guarantee schemes in the state.
A first of its kind initiative in the country, the fund will benefit more than 14 lakh families under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Mahatma Ayyankali Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme.
The fund offers various benefits including pension, marriage allowance, and study assistance to ensure the security and welfare of the employed workers and their families. The fund will be officially inaugurated by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday (May 15) at Kotta Maidanam, Palakkad, as part of the 100-day action plan in connection with the government's second anniversary.
The government will contribute an amount equal to the monthly Rs 50 paid by the worker to the Employment Guarantee Workers Welfare Fund. Eligibility for membership includes being between 18 to 55 years of age and having engaged in unskilled work for at least 20 days in the year of application or any year in the two years immediately preceding it.
The welfare fund offers various benefits to its members, including pension for those who have completed 60 years of age and have paid contributions continuously up to that age, family pension on the death of a member who has paid contributions for not less than 10 years, financial assistance in case of death of a member due to illness or accident, refund of contribution with prescribed interest in case of termination of membership due to disability or incapacity for work, financial assistance for treatment of seriously ill members, financial assistance for marriage of women members and daughters of members, and financial assistance for the educational needs of members' children.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was initially launched in 200 districts across the country, including Palakkad.
Kerala has set an example for the country by being the first state to implement a comprehensive social audit to ensure the proper implementation and quality of the employment guarantee scheme, the government claimed in a press release. Additionally, the state has launched the Ayyankali Employment Guarantee Scheme for unorganised workers in urban areas, making it the first state in India to do so.
As of today, 26.81 crore workers in 15.03 crore families are registered under the scheme across the country, but only 9.55 crore families and 14.29 crore workers are actively participating. Out of these, only 8.76 crore workers belonging to 6.1 crore families were employed last year, with an average of only 47 working days. Only 36.01 lakh families received the full 100 working days, representing only 5.8% of households. The union government has been continuously reducing funding for the project, with Rs. 1,11,719 crore allocated in 2020-21, reduced to Rs. 1,06,489 crore in 2021-22 and further reduced to Rs. 1,01,038 crore in 2022-23. For the current year, only Rs. 60,000 crore has been allocated, which is insufficient to sustain the program, the press release said.
The reduction in funds for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme not only impacts the timely provision of work and payment of wages but also results in a decrease in the number of working days for the registered workers. Furthermore, the curtailment of the number of works that can be undertaken in each panchayat, implementation of Aadhaar-based payment, and the introduction of new systems like NMMS and PFMS are causing additional obstacles for the scheme's proper implementation, the press release stated.
Currently, there are 24.95 lakh active workers in 20.67 lakh families in Kerala, and 17.59 lakh workers belonging to 15.51 lakh families benefited from the scheme last year with an average of 63 working days. Additionally, 4.49 lakh families received 100 days of employment (29 per cent). In comparison, across the country, scheduled tribe families were given an average of 52 working days, while in Kerala, they received 86 working days. Furthermore, the Tribal Plus scheme is being implemented in Kerala as a model for the country, the government claimed.
Kerala's efforts in providing social security, pension, housing, and medical facilities are commendable and can serve as an example for other states in the country, the government said.