Municipal Administration and Urban Development Minister KT Rama Rao appealed to the Central Government to announce a National Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme (NUEGS) in the ensuing union Budget speech to help urban poor. This should be on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). It would aid in meeting the rising urban population requirements, especially in terms infrastructure and amenities and ensuring increased income of urban poor.

In a letter to union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, the MAUD Minister said urbanisation in India was mostly due to absence of livelihood in rural areas, which triggers exodus or in-migration to urban areas. The unavoidable outcome is increased slums and urbanisation of poverty.

As per 2011 Census 31 per cent of Indian population lives in urban areas and it could increase to 40 per cent by 2030. Some States like Telangana are witnessing even faster pace of urbanisation and the urban population in these States is set to increase to 50 per cent mark in the near future, he said.

Apart from infrastructure issues, urban poverty poses distinct challenges for provision of water, health, education, livelihood and the special needs of vulnerable groups such as women, children and senior citizens.

Urban poor are basically engaged as construction workers, casual labourers, security staff, delivery boys, helpers etc. In most cases, they are offered jobs on daily basis without any job security. The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought to fore the sufferings of urban poor, especially the migrant labour, who are majority of urban poor and work in the unorganized (informal) sector.

Considering all these factors, launching a national policy similar to MGNREGA to protect the interests of urban poor and ensure increased income levels is need of the hour, said MAUD Minister KT Rama Rao.

This would aid in addressing different key issues. With rapid urbanization, the demand for employment to the growing labour force will also increase. And, it is only the urban informal economic sector which could offer any hope in absorption of such growing labour force.

It is high time, the government creates an environment for urban informal sector through skill upgradation, financial linkages, social security to the labour, etc. This can be achieved by introducing a National Policy aimed at increased daily incomes for urban labour. Further, cities and towns were working at providing ‘quality of life’ to citizens. 

This ‘quality of life’ is ensured to the urban labour engaged in the informal sector only when their income levels are raised by giving them a leverage to take care of their families’ basic health and educational needs, he pointed out.

“Like in rural areas, we can provide job cards through the employee Guarantee scheme in urban areas. Their services can be utilized in urban environment protection programmes city level green action plan (Haritha Haram) and other basic infra works, including laying pavements, repair and maintenance works,” suggested KT Rama Rao.

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