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As 5.22 lakh migrants return to Odisha, civil society sets up help desks in 16 districts

Helpdesk in Malkangiri district
By Our Representative

In a mission to restarting livelihood for migrant returnees and other needy families who mostly depend on the informal economy and had to lose their livelihood due to the Covid-19 in Odisha, two state civil society organizations have set up 16 district level help desks in order to link them with various livelihood based schemes and employment opportunities, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

The help desks will offer specific livelihood information, food security programmes and other government assistance announced by the state and central government especially during Covid-19.
The Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha (OSM) and the Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha (MSMO) have launched this initiative as a part of their livelihood campaign entitled “Prabashee Shramaku Na Karibaa Mana, Nija Gaon Re Karibaa Jeebika Arjana” which literally means to promote livelihood at the locality and avoiding distress migration.
Balangir, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Gajapati, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada are among the 11 migration prone districts where the help desks have been set up. As the influx of the migrant returnees is large in numbers, one of the immediate challenges for the returnees will be their livelihood prospects.
Similarly, other districts where help-desks have been set up, are Malkangiri, Kandhamal, Boudh, Nayagarh, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Sundergarh, and Deogarh. In these districts, tribal people are confronting to an extremely difficult time due to Covid-19. The greater chunk of minor forest produce is gathered between April and June every year and the lockdown has stopped them to collect the forest produce for the entire year.
Help desk in Rayagada district
“The help-desk facility is useful for such communities who seek work at this critical time. People can call us, register their issues over telephone or visit our help-desk centres which are located in the district headquarters, to know about schemes and Act that concern them. We are there to help”, says Mukunda Madkami, a Sangathan member of the Shramajeebee Sangathan and an in-charge of the district level help-desk centre, set up in Malkangiri.
“We have so far been successful to mobilise work under MGNREGA for around 60000 households per day in these 16 districts for two weeks consecutively, which we had started on a campaign mode from 1st June. Our Janasathis (grassroots workers) have been visiting villages, interacting with the people and persuading them to benefit from various government schemes which are announced by both the central and the state government during Covid-19”, says Anjan Pradhan, the convener of Odisha Shramajeebee Mancha.
According to the data provided by the Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Odisha on 11th June 11, as many as 5, 22,148 Odias have returned to Odisha since May 3.
“This puts us in a humongous task. With the Odisha government bracing for effective implementation of MGNREGA in the state, the help-desk will serve crucial”, says Ms Shanti Bhoi, state president of Mahila Shramajeebee Mancha, Odisha.
Meanwhile, the State government has announced that under the MGNREGA scheme, it will provide 20 crore persondays for migrants in excavating around 1.3 lakh ponds across the State.

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