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Dull Diwali for MGNREGA workers in Tamil Nadu

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It was a dull Diwali for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Tamil Nadu with the payment of their salaries pending one day after the end of the festival. The Center, which would have withheld their salary for six to seven weeks, snatching the shine from the festival.

The All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) led a massive protest on October 27 across the state to demand immediate payment of wages. Chief Minister MK Stalin shot a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in search of funds for salaries. The growing dependence on the MNREGA is a sign of the poor economic conditions in rural areas and calls for strengthening the regime rather than diluting it, as the Union government has done, the Union government said. AIAWU.

LIFE LINE FOR THE RURAL POOR

The MNREGA, an original idea of ​​the left-wing parties, was implemented during the first reign of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2005. Aiming to provide a minimum of 100 days of work to rural households, the project continues to be a lifeline for lakhs.

In Tamil Nadu, 134.16 lakh workers have registered under the program with 92.36 lakh work cards issued in 12,525 village panchayats of 388 blocks. The number of active work cards was 75.13 lakh with 92.68 lakh of active workers on Saturday 6 November. Among active workers, the listed caste (SC) and the listed tribe (ST) make up 29.91% and 1.69% respectively.

In 2020-2021, 2,190.81 lakh person-days were achieved out of the 2,500 allotted person-days, of which female and SC person-days were 84.99% and 29.81% respectively. The average number of days per year and per household has remained below 50 over the last five fiscal years except 2020-21 which had 50.22 days. For 2021-22, work has been donated for 34.41 days per household so far.

DELAYED PAYMENT OF SALARIES AFFECTS DEPENDENTS

Altogether 63.66 Lakh households worked and 73.82 Lakh people worked so far at an average salary of Rs 209.63 in the current fiscal year. “Workers don’t get nearly 100 days of work and are paid much lower than the officially advertised daily wage of Rs 273,” said S Sankar, state treasurer, AIAWU. Newsclick.

Workers demonstrate against late payment of wages in Cuddalore district.

“The Union government has frequently delayed the payment of wages, which has had an impact on Diwali workers. The Center must ensure that all eligible households receive 100 working days and the legal salary, ”Sankar added.

In a letter to Modi, K Balakrishnan, Secretary of State of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), alleged that the Center had cut funds for MGNREGA. “The government of the Bharatiya Janata party has continued to weaken MGNREGA and reduce the allocation of funds, waging an economic war against the rural poor in the country,” he wrote, condemning the delay in release. wages amounting to Rs 2,137 crore to workers in Tamil Nadu. After the protest and the letters written by Stalin and Balakrishnan, the Center sanctioned Rs 1,361.5 crore for settlement of pending dues.

REGULATING AND REINFORCING WORK

Some state political parties, including Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), have called for the demolition of MGNREGA. But the increase in the number of dependents and beneficiaries of the scheme shows the poor state of the economy, implying the need to strengthen it.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the economy. It is especially the rural population dependent on the daily wage which is affected. The Union government must strengthen MGNREGA and guarantee 100 days of work and pay, ”said NS Kannan, chairman of the Kanyakumari district unit, AIAWU.

Workers demonstrate in Kodumudi taluk, in Erode district.

Kannan dismissed the allegation that a poor work culture among the workers delayed the completion of the work. The state has a completion rate of 89.19% since 2018-19.

“We need to regulate the work by hiring more supervisors in the program. A supervisor is in charge of five to seven village panchayats, which makes monitoring impossible. In addition, administrative problems and professional misconduct must be verified to retain workers’ rights.

The 134.16 lakh workers registered with MGNREGA constitute nearly 20% of the state’s population. “A high percentage of the state’s population is registered with the MNREGA. The growing participation of women in the program indicates declining family income and greater dependence on MGNREGA. To protect rural populations and their economic status, the Union government must strengthen the program, ”demanded Sankar.

The union demanded that the state government engage people with disabilities to maintain appeal roles instead of forcing them to do physical labor. “Each worker receives 32 cubic feet of work per day, which is not possible for normal workers. People with disabilities should be given work related to program documentation, ”Sankar added. A total of 68,326 people with disabilities in the state have worked so far in 2021-2022.

THE SEGREGATION OF CASTWISE PENDING

When the Rural Development Ministry issued a notice to divide MNREGA’s payment system based on caste in March, the AIAWU and CPI (M) resisted the decision and called it a divide. “We suspected that not only the payment but also the allocation of work would be caste-based as well. This would have led to the exploitation of the workers of SC and ST. The AIAWU had protested the move in recent months, which resulted in the proposal being suspended, ”Kannan said. Newsclick.


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