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WB: Left Front to Hold State-Wide Protests Against Stoppage of MGNREGA Allocation by Centre

“If there are irregularities in MGNREGA accounts, punish the guilty. Why bring work to a standstill in the state?” said LF chairman Biman Basu.
Caption: Left Front chairman Biman Basu addressing a press conference on MGNREGA in Kolkata

Caption: Left Front chairman Biman Basu addressing a press conference on MGNREGA in Kolkata

Kolkata: The Left Front in West Bengal is all set to protest against the “stoppage” of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) allocation in the state.

Announcing this at a press meet held at Muzaffar Ahmad Bhawan in Kolkata, Left Front chairman Biman Basu said on March 28, 29 and 30, the Left Front will stage protests across the state against the “theft in MGNREGA projects and the deliberate attempt of the Modi government to discontinue the projects in West Bengal.”

Basu criticised the Narendra Modi government’s role in depriving the poor people of the state, who get work under MGNREGA, saying that no budgetary allocation has even been made in the Union budget for West Bengal.

Basu also said if there were any irregularities in the accounts of the MGNREGA, then the guilty must be punished. “But why is MGNREGA work coming to a standstill in the state?” he asked.

On March 28, street corner meetings and rallies will be held across the state. On March 29, in Kolkata, a rally will be held from Ramlila Maidan to the Dharmatalla Lenin statue.

Basu also highlighted the struggle that the Left Front government had waged against the Central government right from 1977. “Even in 2011, the then leader of the Opposition, Surjya Kanta Mishra, had submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on issues concerning the welfare of people of the state,” he added.

With June approaching, the labour budget of MGNREGA has not been approved by the Central government, leading to work under the flagship scheme coming to a virtual standstill across West Bengal for the last one and a half years.

Only spillover projects are being allowed to be completed as no new work is being taken up. Work has fully stopped in all major districts of West Bengal, such as North 24 Parganas, Jalpaiguri, and Malda. Other districts are also going the same way.

The average days of employment provided per household by the scheme have dropped to 17.09 in the current financial year (2022-2023). In the previous financial year (2021-22), it was 47.94, and in 2020-21, it was 51.98.

From the district level, all the blocks had been intimated in West Bengal, as early as possible, to finish the pending MGNREGA works last year. The registrar had stated that live work should be started within one week of clearance, as per a directive issued by the Panchayat Department of the Government of West Bengal.

Though geotagging is a must in MGNREGA work, it has not been done in many cases. It may be recalled that sapling plantations under MGNREGA had given rise to allegations of huge irregularities. Though it was banned in 2017, the irregularities are continuing, according to sources refusing to be named.

In North Bengal, conditions are no better. Generally, June onward, due to the rainy season, work shuts down in the hilly region.

However, in Cooch Behar, from April, MGNREGA work is facing a closure-like situation. Out of the 128-gram panchayats in the district, with 27,000 labourers, no work has started in 49 of them. On average, 341 labourers in every gram panchayat have got work opportunities in the Cooch Behar district. Most of the money for the work pending in 2022 is overdue and is still not paid.

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