19 February 2015

Shameless On A Day Of Shame

On February 2, Lajja Diwas, a day of shame, a shameless NREGS Commissioner, Dibyendu Sarkar, was forced to meet about 30 members of the Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, who barged into his office. When hearing complaints about late payment, Mr Sarkar claimed triumphantly that he had almost cleared wages for 2013 -14. When asked whether he would also pay the workers compensation for late payment of wages, he claimed it was not his responsibility because the Centre was causing the delay. He also claimed that Central guidelines absolved him from such responsibility even if the guidelines were against the law.

When the activists told him about unpaid wages, he again complained about the lack of central funds. He said that though the National Employment Guarantee Act gives a guarantee of 100 days of work, the Central government had wanted to give only 54% of the labour budget demanded by states. He shamelessly admitted that the Central Government's action was against the law.

In further mockery of NREGA workers, he took no responsibility for the fact that his officials at the block and Panchayat level were refusing to receive applications for further work. He also gave a long explanation about bank accounts, FPOs etc. and blamed banks for delays in transfers to accounts of beneficiaries. Those in the protest found it difficult to understand why bank and Government coordination had still not become possible after 10 years of NREGA.

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. 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.

PBKMS, as part of its programme also met the officials and district magistrates of Purulia, Bankura, South and North 24 Parganas and Nadia district with black badges. Black badges were also given to officials in blocks and Anchals of Paschim Midnapore, Purulia, Bankura, South and North 24 Parganas and Nadia district. There was a special march to Nabbana, the seat of the West Bengal Government, on the February 11.

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