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National NREGA Jan Sunwai Highlights Modi Government's Neglect of Rural Workers

Event saw participation of notable figures, including Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and Kanhaiya Kumar; Gathering addressed growing challenges MGNREGA workers face daily.

New Delhi: In a powerful display of solidarity and resolve, thousands of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers from across Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh gathered at the Ranka High School ground in Jharkhand for the National Jan Sunwai (Public Hearing) on MGNREGA. Organised by MGNREGA Sangharsh Morcha and Jharkhand MGNREGA Watch, the event saw the participation of notable figures, including Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar.

The crux of the gathering was to address the growing challenges MGNREGA workers face daily. Mahavir Parhaiya from Latehar in Jharkhand lamented the irregularity of work and delayed payments, echoing the sentiments of many others present. Phool Kumari from Katihar in Bihar highlighted the stark reality where demand for work far exceeds available opportunities, leaving many unemployed. Meanwhile, Bholu Pando and Sevak Lakra from Chhattisgarh voiced concerns over budget cuts and the imposition of digital attendance systems, hampering their ability to access MGNREGA benefits.

In his address, Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar underscored the invaluable contribution of workers to the nation's development and demanded equitable treatment from the government. He called for parity between the waivers granted to capitalists and the rights of MGNREGA workers.

Former Jharkhand Rural Development Minister Alamgir Alam emphasised the state government's efforts to advocate for fair wages and opposed the digital attendance system. He vowed to continue pressing the Union Government on these critical issues.

Jairam Ramesh, recalling the arduous journey behind the MGNREGA Act, accused the current government of undermining its principles. He criticised the introduction of unnecessary technical complexities and stressed the need for collective action to protect the program's integrity.

Economist Jean Dreze highlighted MGNREGA's transformative impact on rural communities, showcasing tangible examples of prosperity resulting from the program's initiatives.

The event concluded with the presentation of a Charter of Demands, jointly articulated by MGNREGA Sangharsh Morcha and Jharkhand MGNREGA Watch. Among the key demands were the guarantee of 100 days of work per adult, an increase in MGNREGA wage rates to Rs 800, expedited wage payments within 15 days, and the cessation of digital attendance systems.

Furthermore, the charter called for implementing Supreme Court orders on pending compensations, the cessation of Aadhar Payment Systems, and allocating adequate budgets for social audits. It also urged for amendments to Section 27 of the MGNREGA Act to prevent injustices like those experienced in West Bengal.

The resounding message from the National Jan Sunwai was clear - the government must prioritise the welfare of MGNREGA workers and uphold their rights to fair work and wages. With demands firmly voiced and unity demonstrated, the fight for justice and equity in rural employment continues unabated.

Read the Full Statement Below
Modi government wants to kill NREGA: Jairam Ramesh said at National NREGA Jan Sunwai

NREGA Sangharsh Morcha and Jharkhand NREGA Watch jointly organised National Jan Sunwai (Public Hearing) on National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and Public Dialogue with Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra on 14 February 2024 at Ranka High School ground in Ranka, Garhwa district (Jharkhand). Thousands of NREGA workers from various non-party trade unions and mass organisations from Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh participated in this event. Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh and Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar were the chief guests. Apart from this, Rameshwar Oraon, Alamgir Alam, Nikhil Dey (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan), Gangaram (Chaupal), James Herenj and Balram (Jharkhand NREGA Watch) participated in the public hearing.

Workers from Jharkhand and other states took this platform to put forward the challenges they face everyday in NREGA. Mahavir Parhaiya from Latehar in Jharkhand, said that for the last two years, he has not been getting regular work under NREGA in his village and the payment for the work has also not been made on time. Phool Kumari from Katihar in Bihar says that, in her village, if 76 people demand work hardly 7 people get work. Bholu Pando and Sevak Lakra from Chhattisgarh say that the introduction of NREGA brought revolutionary changes in their lives, but due to continuous budget cuts and the introduction of digital attendance (NMMS), it is becoming very difficult to work under NREGA.

During the public hearing, Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar said that this country was built by the workers and without workers the country will not prosper. He added that, if the current Union Government can waive off the loan of capitalists amounting to Rs 14 lakh crores, then it should also guarantee the rightful work and wages of crores of NREGA workers.

Senior leader and former Jharkhand Rural Development Minister, Alamgir Alam said that the Jharkhand State Government wrote several letters to the Union Government questioning the logic in paying NREGA workers less than the statutory agricultural wage rate and further promised that the state would put pressure on the Union Government to withdraw digital attendance.

In the public hearing, Jairam Ramesh recalled the struggle behind the NREGA Act and outlined its objectives, adding that the current Union Government is bringing unnecessary technical complexity into NREGA in the name of transparency, which is in violation of the people's right to work. He stressed that the main objective of the Union Government is to end NREGA. He also suggested that after Rajasthan, Jharkhand could be the second state where urban employment guarantee should be implemented. He urged that it is the duty of public representatives to participate in such public hearings and take collective decisions, keeping in mind the ground reality.

Economist Jean Dreze, while showing a fish from the pond built by NREGA workers, said that NREGA is an investment that has brought prosperity among the rural poor. On behalf of NREGA Sangharsh Morcha and Jharkhand NREGA Watch, Gangaram Paikra, Balram and James Herenj presented the Charter of Demands (Attached herewith).

Following is the charter of demands jointly presented by NREGA Sangharsh Morcha and Jharkhand NREGA Watch

  • Guarantee 100 days work per adult (vyask) person in a family.

  • NREGA wage rate should be Rs 800

  • Pressure should be put on the central government to pay wages within 15 days as per NREGA law.

  • The Union Government should follow the order of the Supreme Court in the Swaraj Abhiyan case and pay the pending compensation.

  • Do not make Aadhar Based Payment System (ABPS) mandatory for payments.

  • Digital Attendance (NMMS) in NREGA should be stopped immediately.

  • Adequate budget should be allocated for social audit and the autonomy of the social audit department should be maintained. In the social audit of every work, it should be done as per the rules of CAG, keeping all the information before the Gram Sabha.

  • In the name of Section 27 of the NREGA Act, the injustice being done to NREGA workers of West Bengal should be stopped. Section 27 should be amended so that such injustice does not happen to other states.

  • There is a provision of unemployment allowance in the NREGA Act if work is not found within 15 days, but it is not followed. The central government should take responsibility that the workers get unemployment allowance.

  • Every person in every family should get 100 days of work in a year.

  • For the empowerment of the Gram Sabha, it is necessary that the decisions of the Gram Sabha be given priority in the determination and implementation of schemes.

  • The Urban Employment Guarantee Act should be brought in the entire country so that every hand actually gets work and gets full wages for the work.


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