NREGA Sangharsh Morcha demands higher wages, more working days, employee insurance in letter to PM

It has requested Union government to notify a wage rate of Rs 600 per day for NREGA workers and allocation of work for 150 days annually for each job card holding individual

Representative image
Representative image

NH Web Desk

Flagging issues being faced by crores of MGNREGA workers, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has requested the Union government to notify a wage rate of Rs 600 per day for NREGA workers and allocation of work for 150 days annually for each job card holding individual in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister and Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj.

In the letter, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha pointed out that the request to hike wages to Rs 600 is as per recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission which will allow dignified living for 15 crore households who are registered under NREGA. The huge inflation in the past two years also means that in real terms the wages in MGNREGA remain paltry and insufficient, it said.

This is especially because the COVID 19 pandemic continues to be a serious public health issue with devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of workers, especially in the informal sector, and daily wage workers. A respectable increase in wages of MGNREGA workers has become urgent keeping in mind the huge inflation in the prices of food and all consumer goods, it said.

With ever increasing rate of unemployment – as per the report of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, in August 2021, it is at 8.32 % – and 34% decrease in the fiscal budget of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for year 2021-22 as compared to the revised estimate of the year 2020-21 is adding further to the woes of rural populations for survival and employment, stated NREGA Sangharsh Morcha in the letter.

It has suggested that the Union government should notify allocation of 150 days of wage work annually for each job card holding individual and keeping with this demand, the government should allocate necessary budget for employment of 29 crore job card registered workers.

In such trying times, the spirit of MGNREGA as an entitlement for people’s right to work with dignity and social protection must be strengthened. It is important that the MGNREGA is envisioned as a gender-responsive program for recovery from economic crisis with much needed reforms in the implementation mechanism and provisions over and above all existing entitlements in the MGNREGA, it said.

The workers group has demanded that the mandate of MGNREGA should be expanded as guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural adult member who seeks to do unskilled manual work. This will increase scope for rural unemployed labour to engage in productive resource building activity with protection of workers right to work with dignity, wages and social security, especially in the areas where there is forced migration for survival and livelihoods, it said.

The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha further said that the government’s data shows that over 70% of the total households provided employment in the year 2020-21 have already been provided employment in the last six months. This means that the demand for work is significant in terms of households requiring work under NGREGA even though the budget is low.

The group stated that Section 3 of MGNREGA laid down that the wages shall be paid within 15 days of the closure of the Muster Roll. However, there are delays in payment of wages, it said.

It has been also observed that there has been significant delays in payments of wages from the Central government and in a pandemic year where rural citizens are cash strapped, lost their earnings and became more indebtedness as a result, these delays in releasing wages are unacceptable, it said.

In the letter, the group questioned the rationale for trifurcation of payments based on the caste categories of workers and maintained that it was unclear and was causing unnecessary tension among workers. This was also at odds with the universal nature of the Act. The caste-based trifurcation of FTO needs to be revoked, it said.

NREGA Sangharsh Morcha strongly demanded in the letter to the PM that the Central government simplified its payments process and ensure on-time payments of wages in a decentralized manner. It also wanted all the back wages of MGNREGA workers across the states to be paid as per the guidelines for the delayed payment and the Supreme Court orders in the Swaraj Abhiyan v Union of India case.

It requested that all members of NREGA job card holding families be brought under the Employment State Insurance Act as a social protection measure of all MGNREGA workers.

The group wanted each worksite to follow COVID protocol with all required provisions such as face mask, facility for hand wash and sanitisers, drinking water, shed for rest and medical assistance.

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