No one is untouched by the impact of the continuing lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, even card holders under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Agra region are badly hit. Hundreds of workers are yet to get their wages for the previous months.
Mismatch of beneficiary account holders and non-attendance are cited as possible reasons for non-payment of wages.
The Bainpur gram panchayat of Sikandra region in Agra has four villages -- Bainpur, Ghadi Bainpur, Nagla Chuchana and Babarpur.
The panchayat secretary said, "the payouts were stuck due to the lockdown."
The chief of the MGNREGA workers Beerpal Kumar said, "Right now 15 labourers are working under MGNREGA at this site. We go to the Rozgar Sevak with a complaint when payment does not arrive."
He said some have not received wages for months. "Right now I cannot tell you who has got the payment, who has not. But one worker named Ranjit's payment is stuck for 5-6 months. Another worker named Jagdish has not received money for 40-50 days. I have lodged a complaint with the gram sachiv (village secretary) and gram pradhan (village headman)," Kumar said.
MGNREGA is a labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the right to work.
Next, IANS talked to a Rojgar Sevak named Prashant to delve into why the dues have not been cleared yet. He said, "There are 350 workers registered on our muster roll under the scheme. Even after getting registered some people work, some don't. Right now 15-20 labourers are working here."
On the question of pending dues, Prashant said, "This was due to mismatch of accounts. Now I think they must have received the money. They might not have checked the accounts. I agree there is some delay, but every worker gets the payout."
He added, "Some labourers closed their bank accounts and did not update the new account with the authorities. Banks are not printing the card holders bank accounts due to the lockdown. Right now we pass oral information about the payment to the workers."
Then IANS talked to Ranjit who claimed he has not received payment for 5-6 months. He said, "I worked for 17 days, but have not received a penny for the last eight months. I complained to Rojgar Sevak, village head and gram sachiv. They said money has been deposited in my account. When I asked the bank about the money, the manager refused to answer."
Ranjit's woes did not end here. He said he worked for 30-32 days, but the muster roll only marked 17 days of work. "They don't give the full attendance. Nobody knows who is working who is not. When I said I worked for 38 days, they said -- no, no, you worked only for 17 days."
When IANS spoke to gram pradhan (village head) Vinita Yadav, she said, "We have completed our formalities, but why the money has not come from the government, I don't know."
The government has increased the wages under the MGNREGA from Rs 182 to 202, but for some even that is elusive, at least in Agra region.