Members of the Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC), the government body for implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, have suggested that jobs be guaranteed round the year in Naxal-hit regions.
The suggestion, made by one of the six working groups set up for improving the scope of the MNREGS, came up for discussion at Friday's CEGC meeting here.
The group said that in drought prone areas and regions affected by national calamity, 50 more additional days of work should be provided.
Also the guaranteed number of working days should be increased from 100 to 120 or 125 for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Jean Dreze and Aruna Roy, council members, demanded that wages be linked to the Consumer Price Index and that it should be done in compliance with the Minimum Wages Act. Ms. Roy wrote to all members expressing her distress at payment of just Re. 1 in Rajasthan's Tonk district, and pointed out that it violated the Minimum Wages Act.
She cited a Supreme Court ruling that paying less than the minimum prescribed amounted to “forced labour.”
Several members questioned the rationale of getting the social audit of the scheme done by the sarpanch when he was part of the system.
The other demands included reduction of the working hours from nine to seven hours, and that pregnant women, and disabled and aged persons be asked to work only half day to earn their full wages.
Putting in place a bike and barefoot banking system and increasing the administrative cost from six to eight per cent were also suggested.
The members were against the government insistence on States constructing Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi Sewa Kendras under the MNREGS and making it a new condition for release of funds. By doing so, the government had overstepped its mandate, the members said.
They demanded that the Rural Development Ministry take a decision on these recommendations at the earliest. But Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi made it clear that most of the decisions were taken by Parliament and hence legal and financial clearance would be needed.
He also said taking a decision on wages for workers would have a ripple effect on agriculture. Mr. Joshi agreed that getting social audits done by sarpanches would not yield a fair result.
Planning Commission member Mihir Shah called for prioritising the recommendations and fixing a timeline for implementation.