Lucknow: MGNREGA Workers Stage Protest, Demand Regular Work, Hike in Wages

Though the scheme aims at bringing financial prosperity in rural India, it is marred by corruption and irregularities.
Lucknow: MGNREGA Workers Stage Protest, Demand Regular Work, Hike in Wages

Lucknow— MGNREGA workers have assembled in the state capital to protest against alleged irregularities in their payment system. Agitating under the umbrella of the MGNREGA Mazdoor Sangh, the workers alleged despite a mechanism being in place, cheating and frauds rule the roost. Real workers are deprived of their wages.

The Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was introduced in 2005 and launched in 2006 with the aim to guarantee “right to work”. It has the provision of 100 days work that provides guaranteed wages in a financial year. The minimum wage under the scheme is revised regularly on the basis of CPI-AL (Consumer Price Index- Agriculture labour) that reflects increase in inflation in rural areas. 

Though it aims to bring financial prosperity in rural India, the scheme is marred by corruption and irregularities - making it almost ineffective. 

One of the protesters, Pritam Kanojia, who came from Ghazipur in eastern Uttar Pradesh, said, “There are gross irregularities in MGNREGA. People whose names are found on the master roll have never been seen by their fellow labourers. The workers are not paid for the days they have worked. If one works for three days, he or she gets paid for two days. The wage for one day goes to fake people.” 

The labourers have come to Lucknow to stage the protest in this spine-chilling cold by spending hundreds of rupees. Till the they are staying in the city; they will have to bear further expenses. 

Minta, an elderly lady who came from Azamgarh, said, “Earlier, we used to get work and were paid Rs 100 or 200 as one-day wage; but now, we are not getting work. We are here to demand Rs 400 as wages and work for at least 15-20 days every month.” 

She said that she has no money at home. She has borrowed Rs 1,000 to come to Lucknow in the hope that her demand would be met.  

Some alleged caste discrimination in allotment of the works.

A lady belonging to the Dhuriya community, who came from Ambedkarnagar said, “The village pradhan (village head), who is a Thakur - a dominant caste in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, refuses to make our job card despite the fact that we are landless and have no source of income.”

The labourers have put forward following demands: 

  • Recognise the MNREGA Mazdoor Sangh as an operational body for the digging rivers. 

  • Increase the wages of MNREGA workers from Rs 230 to Rs 400 and increase the number of minimum days from 200 to 400.

  • Free of cost registration of labourers in the labour department.

  • Establishment of a MGNREGA surveillance committee to ensure community participation under the Act and appoint Gram Sabha as its head. Similarly, the block chief of the Mazdoor Sangh should be appointed as MNREGA block vigilance committee chief.

  • The regularisation of women MGNREGA mates so that they also get regular wages, and they are deployed at every work site. MGNREGA mates are responsible for making entries in job cards.

  • Provide all facilities to MNREGA workers at their place of work and issue fresh job cards. Make entries of job and wages at the work site only.

  • The Rozgar Sevak or the Gram Sachiv should receive the job card on priority basis and provide the receipt for the same.

  • Apart from the minimum wages, the labourers should get the wages in accordance with the work and the payment should be made on a weekly basis. Compensation should be provided if no work is provided within the stipulated number of days, as per the Act.

“The government has accepted three of the aforementioned demands of the workers. A decision with regard to the rest of the demands will be made within two months,” Ambika Prasad, the national president of the MGNREGA Mazdoor Manch, told The Mooknayak. 

The government has allocated Rs 86,000 crore for the scheme in the interim Budget for 2024-25, which is the same as the last year. 

The protesters said only an efficient system of checks and balances can ensure the effective implementation of the scheme.

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