Unpacking Rajasthan’s Urban Employment Guarantee Programme
23 August 2022
As the pandemic induced unemployment skyrocketed, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) became a social security net to fall back on for rural households. However, there was an absence of a similar urban employment scheme. Rajasthan, where the unemployment rate has not stabilised since the pandemic, is the latest state to announce an urban employment guarantee programme. But concerns remain.
Rajasthan’s Financial Budget 2022-23 announced the implementation of the Indira Gandhi Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme (IRGY). In line with the recommendations by the ‘The State of Inequality in India’ Report commissioned by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, the scheme aims to provide 100 days of employment in a financial year for households living in urban areas, should they opt for it. Just as MGNREGS, IRGY is a demand-driven scheme and the work provided is primarily labour-intensive. The Rajasthan budget has granted an yearly expenditure of about ₹800 crores for IRGY.
Context of the problem
As per data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), unemployment rate — particularly for urban India — had been rising even before the pandemic hit in March 2020. From April 2018 to February 2020, urban unemployment rose by 7.6% in the state. The pandemic only worsened the situation as the rate soared to 35.4% in April 2020, and 42.40% in May 2021.
As of June 2022, the state had the highest unemployment rate among all Indian states, with Haryana being the only state to rival it in terms of unemployment rate in the past one year.
The Basics of IRGY
Eligibility in the Rajasthan’s urban employment guarantee scheme is primarily dependent upon being a registered member from the age of 18 to 60 years of a household unit holding a Jan Aadhar card, residing under any urban local body jurisdiction of Rajasthan.
Any eligible person (semi-skilled and unskilled) can apply for a job card and, on the basis of the application, the concerned household will be registered under the scheme and a job card will be issued. A job card holder will be prioritised for employment/work in the zone or ward area by the concerned municipal body and employment will be provided by the concerned urban body within 15 days.
The work prospects under the scheme fall under eight broad categories, and can be amended by the state government from time to time:
- Environment protection work;
- Water conservation work;
- Sanitation and related work;
- Work related to the prevention of defacement of property;
- Convergence work under different schemes;
- Service related work;
- Work related to heritage conservation;
- Other works sanctioned by the state government.
The scheme directs minimum necessary facilities for the workers employed to be provided by the concerned municipal body. These include drinking water, first aid facilities, tents for shade during the summers.
For payment of wages, the workers will be paid online as per the task done and at the minimum wage rate notified by the Labour Department. The scheme also mandates the same wage rate for male and female workers. The workers shall be paid wages within 15 days of the completion of work (fortnightly).
A notable feature of the scheme is that it allows employment for persons with disability on a priority basis according to the nature of work, requirement and physical capacity of the person.
The scheme has also promised to create a Management Information System (MIS), similar to the one used for MGNREGS. The MIS portal shall be used to link the common data of families, file applications for job cards, formulation of district-level action plans, monitoring work and payment of workers, among other things.
Challenges and Concerns
One of the main challenges under the scheme is to do with the mandatory use of Jan Aadhar card for availing a job card. The Government of Rajasthan did launch a special campaign via all urban local bodies, from May 2022, to help families get a Jan Aadhar card and register under the scheme. But the use of Jan Aadhar as a mandatory component in some other state schemes has led to exclusion. With the penetration of Jan Aadhar yet unknown in the state, it is very plausible that the scheme would not cover some of the most marginalised people.
Additionally, the scheme warrants that employment be provided to migrant labourers only in extreme circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic or any other epidemic or disaster. While at a glance this provision seems generous and welcoming, the conditionality of extreme situations could lead to exclusion. For instance, in events of forced displacement or absence of a Jan Adhaar card, not all financially and socially vulnerable people will be able to take benefit from the urban employment scheme.
Additionally, while the MIS is necessary for stakeholders at different levels to input data and monitor outcomes, it is imperative that the MIS for this scheme overcome common limitations, such as those seen with the MGNREGS MIS, including issues with payments and flow of money.
Rajasthan’s urban employment guarantee scheme is a welcome scheme given the high unemployment rate in Rajasthan, and with effective implementation and successful monitoring of the concerns posed, the scheme could transform the urban employment landscape in the state.
Ria Kasliwal is a Research Associate and Kuber Bathla is a Research Intern at Accountability Initiative.