Bhagya and her family, residents of Hosa Malapanagudi, Hosapete, risk losing their livelihood once the government turns their gram panchayat (GP) into an urban municipality.
Her family of five depends entirely on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for their livelihood.
The government has proposed to include their village within the urban boundaries, which means that they will no longer be eligible for the rural employment program.
Many like them are now asking the government to let them stay as a village.
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“As part of the MGNREGS, we are guaranteed a nine-month job. We have no land to fall back on. We will have a hard time finding another job, ”said Bhagya DH.
Lakshmi and Jainashree, resource persons at Sakhi Trust, a non-profit organization based in Hosapete, explain that at least 45% of people in this taluk depend on MGNREGS for their jobs.
MGNREGS is not only about employment, but also the conservation of local resources.
As part of MGNREGS, they undertake tree planting, construction of agricultural ponds and other such activities.
The repercussions of the urbanization of these villages are also that parents will stop sending their children to school and that child marriages will increase.
According to data available from the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, the government has turned 126 GPs into municipalities in the past six years.
Government officials recognize that the threat to livelihoods is a reality in these cases.
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Requesting anonymity, an official gave the example of Belagavi: “In this district, seven general practitioners have been upgraded to municipalities. Many residents are still looking for a job. As the majority of them are illiterate and lack other skills, they cannot find work even in the clothing industry.
In some districts of northern Karnataka, as men migrate to neighboring states for work, MGNREGS enables women to find employment near their homes, the official said, stressing the importance of the employment program.
RDPR Principal Secretary LK Atheeq said programs like MGNREGS and Jal Jeevan Mission are only intended for rural areas and when a GP is transferred to an urban area they lose these programs, which means causes difficulties for vulnerable families.
“If these projects were isolated from the rural-urban categorization, rural areas with an urban character would be encouraged to transform into cities,” he adds.
The officials who spoke to DH also point out that urbanization does not necessarily guarantee a better way of life for citizens, as the new city panchayats have virtually no funds for infrastructure development.
They say that the urbanization of the panchayats is often a politically motivated decision, as elected officials have control over a larger civic body.
Several PMs are focused on agriculture and if these villages are included in municipalities simply on the basis of their population, employment will be a challenge, they say.
R Balasubramanian, founder of the Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM), agrees.
“Urbanization does not happen by declaring a panchayat as an urban local body. Urbanization is a by-product of several factors, including changes in people’s economic dependence, population density and the concentrated provision of civic services, ”he says.
Before declaring a panchayat as an urban local body, the government must consult with experts, apart from promising civic developments.
Without these amenities, people will have no choice but to migrate to other places, he observes.
The clamor of urbanization could drive people like Rudrappa out in search of a livelihood.
This resident of Hosapete fears that even the prices of civic equipment (electricity and water) will increase in a municipality.
“Our expenses will go up and our income will go down. We will have to migrate to cities like Bangalore in search of jobs. ”
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