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Unemployment allowance scheme a no-show

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The Congress government’s much-hyped unemployment allowance scheme, a major poll plank during this year’s in the state, has turned out to be a damp squib.

Nearly a month after it was launched with all fanfare, the scheme has so far covered only 834 youths, which represents a miniscule 0.11 per cent of the total population of the hill state. The government is facing stinging criticism from the Opposition parties on the issue.

The principal Opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had raised the issue in the Vidhan Sabha describing the scheme as a “farce”. The House had to be adjourned for a brief period after Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal’s refusal to grant permission for a discussion on the issue resulted in a noisy situation inside the House. The chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, however, said the scheme would cover a total of 60,000 youths.

Fulfilling a key election promise, the government on November 9 launched the scheme despite the acute financial crunch plaguing the state exchequer. Kick-starting the scheme, on the first day itself, the chief minister disbursed unemployment doles to nearly 100 people. But thereafter, the scheme did not pick up any momentum, official sources said.

With unemployment rising in the state, the government is finding it increasingly difficult to cover all the educated, unemployed youths who have been registered at the unemployment exchanges. The government’s real worry is that out of the total 7.03 lakh unemployed youths, who are registered at the unemployment exchange, more than 90 per cent of are educated.

There had been steep rise of nearly 1.40 lakh unemployed youths compared to the last year’s figure of 5.65 lakkh.

In its election manifesto, the ruling Congress party had promised to give unemployment allowance of Rs 750-1,500 depending on the qualification.

However, at a meeting of the state Cabinet in the month of May, the government had decided that there will be three broad categories of such allowance - Rs 500 to intermediates, Rs 750 to graduates and Rs 1,000 to post-graduates.

In order to further restrict the number of beneficiaries, the government had also determined the criteria for availing the allowance under which youths must be in the age group of 25-35 years and must have completed four years of registration with the unemployment exchange, with effect from November 9, 2012, and their family income should be less than Rs 1 lakh a year.

The government is claiming that it has made a budgetary provision of Rs 100-125 crore for providing unemployment doles.

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