Workers engaged in construction, including masons, painters and temporary help, make up the bulk of returnees who have reached Bihar in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, according to a first-of-its-kind skill mapping exercise conducted by the state government.
The first round of the exercise covered over 1.2 million workers in quarantine centres . According to the state government, 1.2 million workers arrived on trains and 1.1 million travelled by road to reach Bihar in the aftermath of the national lockdown imposed on March 25 .
Based on the results of the skill mapping exercise, the state government will reach out to industrial houses to invest in the state and create employment, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.
Finding work for the returning migrants, most of whom are unskilled or semi-skilled, has emerged as a challenge for the Bihar government, a coalition between the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which faces assembly elections later this year.
“Welfare of people is the basic premise of governance in India. States must take care of migrants at this time of distress and must ensure jobs for them,” said Ajay Kumar, an associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.. “The intent is appropriate, but there are several questions with regard to its implementation – do they have proper data and resources?”
Chief minister Nitish Kumar, who faced criticism for seeking the Centre’s guidelines before making arrangements to bring back Bihar’s workers from other states, has been quick to announce that the government will draft a policy on providing jobs to the returnees.
According to the skill mapping data, around 730,000 returnees were engaged in various construction jobs. About 4,000 workers have experience in the information technology (IT) sector, about 9,700 in e-commerce, and 7,300 in banking, financial services and insurance. There are over 14,000 professionals from the health care sector such as nurses, lab technicians, paramedics and fitness trainers. Nearly 20,000 were engaged in electronic and electrical repairs.
State minister of water resources Sanjay Jha said his department alone offered over 600,000 jobs since the lockdown began in March.
“The CM has interacted with returnees at quarantine centres, he has assured them that he will create opportunities for them to stay back,” Jha said.
The senior official cited above said Bihar has a shortfall of workers although its people have found jobs in so many other states.
“There are many opportunities for labourers in Bihar, but for various reasons including social practices, they prefer to work outside the state if they are engaged in blue collar jobs or as daily wagers,” he said.