Nagaland Government has lots of intents, which seldom concretise. With COVID-19 and the resultant economic challenges brought about by the global pandemic, the State Government seems to be keen to show a semblance of correcting the same to mitigate the impact.
The latest to join the bandwagon was the launching of the ‘Livelihood Generation Programme for Returned Migrant Workers due to COVID-19 Pandemic’ by the Department of Industries & Commerce on September 28.
One of the primary objectives of the programme, the department highlighted, is to target the issue of unemployment caused by the pandemic and create opportunities for interested migrant worker returnees to set up their enterprise for livelihood generation.
This follows the launch of Nagaland Joblinks portal of the Labour & Employment, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Department in June and a single-window e-commerce platform Yellowchain, developed by Investment & Development Authority of Nagaland (IDAN) on August 15.
The former aims to connect job seekers and employers for effective engagement and placement in the private sector of the State while the latter is designed to create a link between entrepreneurs, retailers and service providers with the citizens by providing integrated services on a wide range of economic activities.
‘Startup Nagaland,’ in addition, was also launched in August 2019, with the objective target of facilitating the growth of “at least 500 start-ups in the next five years.”
The Government of Nagaland in June also created that two strategic committees on economic affairs - one headed by the Chief Minister and the other core group led by the Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner. Thereafter, the process acquiring details of quarantined returnees was also started to develop institutional mechanisms for skill upgradation and ensuring gainful employment.
The challenges are real. Industries & Commerce Advisor on September 28 informed that there were 15,019 registered returnees excluding students, medical patients, armed forces and others. Presumably, most have either lost their job or are on unpaid furlough.
Collectively, policy-wise, the intents are clear. And if successful, this might augment the additional immediate surge in unemployment, in a State chronically struggling to contain the same.
One is sceptic, however. Take the case of Livelihood programme launched on September 28. According to the department, only 100 applicants would be selected for the programme, and if selected, a tentative amount of Rs 2 lakh would be given to each successful applicant as ‘seed money' - too few and too little.
A visit to the Nagaland Joblinks portal also showed that only 754 job seekers have been registered as of September 30. 24 Startups and 4 Incubators are registered on the ‘Startup Nagaland’ portal so far.
The combined total from all these initiatives constitute merely about 6% of the returnees. What will happen to the rest then?
Accordingly, it is imperative that the State Government expands its focus area and implement additional measures and definitive policy measure in other areas to tackle the immediate challenges in the labour market. As promised, a special focus on health care, education, youth resources and sports, and tourism must be adopted with a clear and targeted strategy. The Chief Minister in the recent past has been batting the concept of a ‘self-reliant’ economy with Agriculture and Allied Sectors as one of the foremost mechanisms. Time is opportune to plant the seeds.