On the 28th of February thousands of workers under theNational Rural Employment Guarantee Act thronged to police stations to file a FirstInformation Report against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a press releaseissued by the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha they explained that this was a form ofprotest against the blatant violation of the law by the central government in making NREGA payments.
Workers from over 50 districts in the country spanning over nine states– Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan,Chhattisgarh and Gujarat collectively protested and tried to lodge the FIR atnearly 150 police stations. The collective claimed that “The last five years have witnessed deliberate undermining of the Act, by allocating insufficientfunds, not meeting the fund demand on time, delays in wage payments and thereby suppressing work demand.”
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha said, at least Rs. 88,000 crores should have been allotted towards the programme in the last five years. “However, insufficient funds have repeatedly resulted in holding back of payments of wages and demand not being met in critical periods of the year.” This, as per the collective, caused a huge distress and inconvenience among the workers.
The collective accused the Prime Minister of making false promises to make workers perform their jobs, cheating them of their wages and violating the MNREGA Act, ‘with intent to cause harm to the workers and their families’. The group demanded that the wrongdoer be arrested immediately. They called the Prime Minister the principle accused and mentioned that violating this law is violating the fundamental right in our constitution – Right to Work.
Thepress release also stated that no fund transfer orders were processed between October 2018 and February 1, 2019 in many states, because funds for NREGA were unavailable. A letter was sent to Minister of Rural Development Narendra SinghTomar, in which the collective demanded that Rs 25,000 crore be released to fund NREGA work till June 2019.
“Itis ironic that a government which seems to have plenty of money to fund bullet trains and to compensate banks for non-performing assets of corporates wholooted the banks, has no money to pay workers who have done their fair share ofwork and are now awaiting their wages,” the press release added.
As the election season is approaching, one can witness the growing dissatisfaction among the rural poor. From farmers to the daily wage labourers seem to have suffered the brunt of the poor policies and their meek execution. All these protests are going to give a voice and shape the narrative of the 2019 elections.
Sources: Scroll.in, The Wire, Youth Ki Awaaz
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