Entrepreneurship and skill development opens employment avenues at times of recession; Ajeevika Bureau

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Shardul Nautiyal, Mumbai

The over dependence on agriculture for employment has led to large scale unemployment, under employment and disguised employment in rural areas, resulting in migration of rural poor to the urban areas. Cases in point are the rural poor villagers hailing from the remote villages of Rajasthan, who migrate to the urban areas of Gujarat like Baroda, Ahmedabad and Surat in search of employment and livelihood.

The group of people who migrate are unskilled and jobless agricultural laborers, who end up doing menial jobs in the cities. Udaipur based Ajeevika Bureau, an NGO working towards providing livelihood opportunities to the rural poor has come out with a novel approach to improve the livelihood opportunities of such might labourers from Rajsthan by helping them updgrade their skills and employability in urban areas. This initiative has been funded by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

The NGO is the brain child of Mr Rajiv Khandelwal, a young graduate from the Institute of Rural Management (IRMA), Anand.

Says Mr P V Ramachandran, Deputy General Manager, NABARD, "We were quite impressed with the innovative way in which the agency approaches the migration issue. Migration of rural workforce to urban areas in search of livelihood opportunities during lean months is a reality and the agency is attempting to improve the employability of the migrating labour force and provide them with an identity while they migrate to urban areas. We appreciate the approach and hence decided to part fund their activities."

Apart from providing the migrating labourers with better skills, the agency also helps them to identify job opportunities in the labour market in the migrated cities by negotiating with job providers like Larsen & Toubro to secure a better deal for these labourers who were otherwise being exploited by job contractors. "The intervention of Ajeevika has helped better job security and higher wages to the migrating labour force", Mr Ramachandran commented.

Ajeevika also provides the labourers with an identify card with their photo, name of the village and other details duly signed by the NGO authorized official. Ajeevika have been authorized to issue such identity card by the Rajasthan Government. This gives a definite identity to the laborers in the cities and helps them in times of crisis. The NGO also provides the laborers facilities to communicate with their kin back home and to send money through the NGO facilitation centers in the migrated cities.

Financial assistance to the project to the tune of Rs 26.34 lakh was extended by NABARD from its Rural Innovation Fund (RIF) in 2008. Creation of Rural Innovation Fund (RIF) in NABARD was intended to give promote small but potentially powerful innovations from rural areas to benefit a large number of rural poor. The fund with an initial corpus of around Rs. 140 crore has been designed to support innovative, risk friendly, unconventional experiments, besides on going projects, in the Farm, Non Farm and micro finance sectors.

The guidelines for the Fund finalized in 2006 provided for extending financial assistance by way of grant, loan or venture like assistance (or a combination thereof) and the first such innovation was funded in March, 2007 for conversion of Mango Peel waste into organic manure in Krishnagiri District of Tamil Nadu. Since then over 80 such innovations have been funded across the country.