Activists of the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (KPRS) appear to have made significant progress in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in the Munoor Gram Panchayat, 20 km from here.
They have managed to induct 250 persons into the scheme in Munoor that had only 25 job card holders before the KPRS entered the scene. Around 15 days ago, the first NREGA project — the building of a 1.5 kilometre irrigation canal - started in the village employing nearly 50 workers.
But what these grassroots activists have gained so far may come to naught because of their lack of information about the basic provisions of the NREGA.
Speaking to The Hindu the workers on site threatened to stop coming to work in the future if the wages are not raised. The workers, mostly women, have come to believe that they are going to be paid only Rs. 82 per day. They demand at least Rs. 125 per day, the wage that they would have earned as agricultural labourers, in addition to lunch and two cups of tea. The KPRS activists supported the demand for raising the “minimum wages of Rs. 82.”
Lack of information
Lunch and tea may not be part of the NREGA menu, but clearly these workers have not been informed of two basic facts. Firstly, minimum wages as a concept does not apply to the NREGA. The programme rests on three basic principles, namely, “work on demand”, “pay in proportion to the work” and consequently, “no work, no pay”, says Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer P. Shivashankar.
In other words, Rs. 82 is not the daily minimum wages guaranteed under the NREGA as understood by the workers and activists. It is in fact the payment for one unit of work.
“When a worker displaces (digs or transports) 1.2 cubic metres of soft soil, it is considered to be one unit of work for which the payment is Rs. 82,” Mr. Shivashankar explained. In the case of hard soil, the workers are paid Rs. 99 for every unit of work.
Secondly, if a worker puts in more work during a given eight-hour-day, she/he can be paid more. The guarantee is that any person can demand and get 100 days of employment in a year under the NREGA. But one can put in 152.43 units of work in these 100 days and be paid a maximum of Rs. 12,500 for the entire period. “If they work more they will be paid more, if they work less they will be paid less. It is that simple,” Mr. Shivashankar said.
District general secretary of the KPRS Yadav Shetty blamed government officials for misinforming the people in Munoor. But he said that his organisation would conduct more awareness workshops for its grassroots cadres.