19 February 2015

Day Of Shame, Rural Employment Scheme Under Attack

February 2 is NREGA Diwas- the day in 2006, when after 18 years of struggle all over the country by rural workers unions and other people’s organisations, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was passed, guaranteeing 100 days of work to all rural workers.

NREGA Diwas is used by the State and Central Government to flout their acheivements. Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, on the other hand, uses the anniversary and the month of February to highlight the problems being faced by rural workers in this programme.

According to PBKMS General Secretary, Uttam Gayen “a good programme would have helped us to stay in the villages and to stop distress migration to Kerala, Andaman islands and Kashmir for work. But, since 2006 we have seen only crocodile tears for NREGA workers and little genuine effort.”

Some of the problems that workers are facing are as follows:
·         Despite a decade of this Act, workers’ rights such as timely payment, work on demand, compensation for late payment of wages and unemployment allowance are only on paper.
·         Workers receive only about one third of the 100 days employment. These are the figures for the state of West Bengal.

Year                  Person days per family
2006-07                  14
2007-08                  25
2008-09                  26
2009-10                  45
2010-11                  31
2011-12                  27
2012-13                  35
2013-14                  37
2014-15                  28

·         Funds spent on MGNREGA have been reduced from Rs.40 thousand crores in 2009-10 to Rs.34 thousand crores in 2014-15.
·         To make matters worse, in these six years, prices have risen and wages in MGNREGA have doubled from Rs. 81 per day in 2009 to Rs. 169 today. So, with less money available, the Government creates less than half the number of person days it used to create in 2009.
·         In these six years, our country has become richer, with production (GDP) increasing from 45 lakhs crores to 57 lakhs crores. But MGNREGA money has decreased from 0.9% of the GDP to O.5% of the GDP.
·         Worse still, the new BJP Government has said that more of MGNREGA funds should be spent on material cost (bricks, sand and cement) and less on giving people work. It has changed the material: labour ratio in works from 40:60 to 49:51.

As part of our efforts to draw attention to the problems faced by NREGA workers, we are organising a series of programmes in Anchal offices, block offices and district offices to give black badges to Government officials for the poor performance in NREGA.

Related Reading:  Work generated in MGNREGS declines in West Bengal (The Hindu)

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