Sep 28, 2010
Under-payment hits an outrageous minimum with MGNREGA workers of Rajasthan being paid Re 1 as their daily wage. Frustrated and annoyed, the workers are set to stage a "satyagrah" to protest against the injustice.
New Delhi: Peeved at being paid just one rupee as their daily wage for the labour they put in under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), workers of Gudlia Gaon under Rupbas Panchayat of Tonk district in Rajasthan are set to tread Bapu's path to protest against the injustice meted out to them.
These workers will stage a “satyagraha” and return to the Rajasthan Government in Jaipur on October 2 the entire money that they earned during their 11-day stint.
This was announced at a press conference held under the aegis of the People's Action for Employment Guarantee and addressed, among others, by social activists Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy, Annie Raja and Nikhil Dey here on Monday.
Four of these workers, including Mohan Singh, said that they had completed the task required of them but were only paid at the rate of Re. 1 a day and the same would be deposited with the Chief Minister's Relief Fund with the request that the amount be paid as Dearness Allowance to the State government employees, “for whom alone the government cares.”
These four below poverty line (BPL) workers had somehow managed to collect Rs. 20 each to pay for their travel and come to Delhi to plead their case through the media. They had received much better pays last year, in the range of Rs. 70 to Rs. 75, but things have turned worse this year with wages not going beyond Rs. 60 as against the promised real wage of Rs. 100. A woman labourer complained that the money was of no use when she had children to take care of.
The worst part is even after an enquiry, the statutory minimum wage has not been paid.
The case exemplifies the crisis that has gripped the law that entitles 100 days of work to the needy across the country, lamented the activists, who also accused the Union Rural Development Minister of “conspiring” in a manner as to force the constituency (workers) to lose interest in the scheme.
They smelt a rat in the Minister's insistence on forming committees and groups to study the wage structure when the present indexation of wages was sufficient enough to ensure the promised real wage of Rs. 100 despite galloping inflation.
Moreover, denial of minimum wages was violative of the Minimum Wages Act. “There is no legal protection for minimum wages which is not acceptable from the common sense point of view,” they said.
The root cause for much of the drawback was attributed to the refusal of the Minister to grant autonomy to the second Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC), the governing body of NREGA, to function independently and live up to its mandate.
Representatives of the council owing allegiance to the Congress too came under the activists' attack. The CEGC was functioning without an executive committee and the response of the Minister was “very negative,” according to them. They also opposed the imposition of the construction of the Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi Sewa Kendra on the panchayats and that too from the outlay of MNREGA. Jean Dreze said that he would take up the entire matter at the next meeting of the National Advisory Council, of which Sonia Gandhi is the chairperson, scheduled to be held on October 23.