A majority of the migrant workforce in cities is engaged in construction activity and in wholesale and retail markets. (Representational Image)
Hyderabad: There is a mad rush to secure job cards under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme in rural areas in the state, thanks to demonetisation.
An unintended consequence of demonetisation is 'reverse migration' of labourers from urban areas after November 8 because there is little work for them in cities and towns where business is poor. Under NREGA, though, they are guaranteed 100 days of employment a year at Rs 194 per day.
A majority of the migrant workforce in cities is engaged in construction activity and in wholesale and retail markets. Since the cash crunch has halted construction activities and business transactions have been hit in markets, the labourers are jobless and are returning to their native villages.
But the cash-starved panchayats in villages are not in a position to offer NREGA jobs either to the lakhs of labourers returning from Hyderabad, Mumbai, Raichur, Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and other cities.
Under the NREGA Act brought in by the previous UPA government, if a job seeker does not get employment within 15 days of applying for it, the government must pay him/ her unemployment allowance, which is one-fourth the wage rate.
This has stopped the government from enrolling workers. Besides, it already owes wage arrears to workers for six months. The gram panchayats have said they cannot afford new job seekers.
In Mahbubnagar district, which has large numbers of migrating labour, there are 2 lakh fresh applicants for NREGA jobs. All have been kept pending. Nearly 10 lakh applications have been filed in Adilabad, Karimnagar, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Warangal, Medak and Khammam.
Panchayat raj officials said cards are supposed to be issued 15 days after submission of the applications but were kept on hold following 'oral instructions' from the government not to issue any fresh cards.
"We have never witnessed this kind of situation. Every day, around 100 to 150 fresh applications are being received from every mandal, which shows how the demonetisation has impacted the livelihood of migrant labourers in urban areas," said a Panchayat Raj official.
However, panchayat raj minister Jupalli Krishna Rao said the increase is due to the time of year. "The period from January to June is considered to be the peak season for NREGA works. Agriculture activities will begin in July and everyone will have enough work in villages from July to December."
He said that all fresh applicants would be provided employment from next month, but admitted it would a burden on the government. "We will take up the issue with the Centre seeking more funds." he said.