Editorial with Sujit Nair: Why deprive MGNREGA wages???

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In this editorial episode, Mr. Sujit Nair discusses the issue of unpaid wages for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) workers in West Bengal. On June 22, 2023, a group of MGNREGS workers gathered at the office of the chief labour commissioner in Nizam Palace, Kolkata, to protest against the withholding of funds and non-payment of wages. The central government took the decision to withhold funds for MGNREGS in West Bengal on December 21, 2021, using Section 27 of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGREGA). The Union Budget 2023-24 did not allocate a labor budget for the state under this scheme. Multiple on-site reports revealed that many laborers have been awaiting their wages for more than a year. The lack of work opportunities under the scheme has severely affected the financial well-being of these workers, for whom MGNREGS is a lifeline. The central government’s freeze on funds amounts to over Rs 7,500 crore for West Bengal, with wage liabilities totaling over Rs 2,762 crore. This funding freeze has adversely impacted the lives of more than 13 million MGNREGS workers in the state, with many still waiting for wages from as far back as 2021. The protest on June 22 was organized by Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity and other groups affiliated with the informal network Right to Food and Work Network, West Bengal. The demonstration saw participation from over a thousand workers from various parts of the state. During the protest, the workers demanded the release of Rs 2,765 crore in wages that have been pending for over 18 months. These MGNREGS workers, numbering around 6.81 crore, constitute roughly 17 percent of the country’s rural workforce. A delegation of five protestors met with the regional labor commissioner, Hemang Dimngel. The campaign group “”Right To Food and Work Campaign”” noted that Dimngel appeared unaware of the issue but promised to forward the demands to the central government. The campaign further accused the central government of pushing workers into destitution, poor health, and starvation by withholding wages for 18 months without any fault on the workers’ part. The protestors also alleged that the Union Budget’s lack of allocation for the scheme is part of the central government’s plan to gradually phase out MGNREGS, thereby eroding one of the few legal rights that rural workers possess. The demands of the protestors included immediate settlement of wage arrears, inclusion of MGNREGS workers in all labor welfare programs, and holding the Centre accountable for the delay in addressing wage arrears. Registered MGNREGS workers are entitled to 100 days of employment. The scheme, with regular work opportunities, enables villagers to lead a decent life even with 30-40 days of work, earning around Rs 213 per day.

#MGNREGA #PMModi #MamataBanerjee #WestBengal #TMC #AmitShah #MNREGA #DailyWagers #Workers #Poverty #BPL #Labourers #HWNews #SujitNair

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