The centre plans to extend the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) to textile artisans. The move aims to support artisans who are leaving the skills and joining the unskilled labour force, as the latter provides better wages. It is a step to boost to the handloom industry in India.
Santosh Gangwar, Union minister for textiles said that they are considering extending the MNREGS to the handloom weavers and artisans of the textile sector, so that they or their younger generation are not forced to take up jobs under MNREGS which offers better wages.
This also encourages many of them to do nothing but avail the wages under MNREGS. Malpractice going on in the rural employment guarantee scheme, one of the flagship programs of the UPA government which was launched in 2006 and has since been widely criticised.
Gangwar, further said that when one can earn over Rs150 a day without even doing anything, then why would he pursue an art which doesn't offer much? That is why the next generation of artisans is reluctant to continue the tradition. If the same wages are offered to them for handloom or crafts work as the MNREGS, they would happily pursue their traditional work.
If everything goes according to plan, workers of other sectors may also be extended the benefit, because the PM wants to boost employment in all the sectors in the rural parts of India.
MNREGS ensures 'right to work' by offering a minimum of 100 days of work per year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The wages differ from state to state and are revised time to time as per the consumer price index for agricultural labour (CPIAL). At present the MNREGS wages range from Rs150-Rs175 a day while many artisans earn less than Rs100 a day.
Dutta Iswalkar of the Textile Labour Union of Mumbai said that as formal decision is yet to be made in this regard, the textile unions trashed the idea calling it short-term. This only shows the short-sightedness of the union textile ministry. Instead of diverting the funds to the handloom workers and artisans, government must actually support them with higher wages than MNREG, which will automatically attract them (to the scheme), said
While, the Varanasi handloom workers said that if the government offered facilities and incentive to the handloom sector, no one would go for road-laying jobs. The handloom sector is facing a lot of problems including uneven supply of yarns, power cuts and meagre returns.
The textile workers have urged the Centre do a proper study to understand the reason behind artisans forced to leaving their work and also must launch an investigation to curb the mal practice of availing MREGS wages without doing anything.
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