TIRUNELVELI: At a time when the Central Government is promising a daily wage of Rs. 80 to labourers hired under National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) for completing the work within eight hours, workers engaged for deepening of an irrigation tank in the district have started demanding this sum as daily wage without completing the assigned work.
When a panchayat president paid them only Rs. 65 , considering the less quantum of work completed within eight hours, the labourers forwarded a complaint to the Collector.
When the deepening of the tank was taken up at South Kaavalaakurichi under the NREGP, the labourers of Kaavalaakurichi under Alangulam union, were pleased. Most of them had been rendered jobless due to scanty rainfall. As the work commenced, each group of ten labourers was asked to dig a pit 10 metre long and wide and 50 cm deep within eight hours.
“We worked from December 22, 2007 to January 2, 2008 and were given only Rs. 65 even after we completed the work. However, the panchayat president claims that the wage was reduced since the work was not completed, which is not true,” complained T. Murugan, one of the labourers.
Barring two labourers, all refused to accept the wages, protesting the cut of Rs. 15.
However, panchayat president and executive officer of the programme, Selvaraj, denies the charges.
“The labourers, who initially completed the assigned quantum of work within the stipulated time and got Rs. 80, started demanding the same wage without completing the work, which is not possible. Otherwise, the panchayat administration will land in trouble,” he said.
Another major grievance of the labourers is that the panchayat president refused to give employment opportunity to those who have crossed the age of 40, citing the reason that they would not be fit for such tough fieldwork. A section of the aggrieved labourers also alleged that they were being forced to complete the work assigned to the ‘supervisors’ .
Receiving the complaint on Thursday, Collector G. Prakash told The Hindu that he had sent an enquiry team, led by the Assistant Project Officer, NREGP, to the spot to ascertain the facts. “The final decision on this issue will be taken only after getting the team’s report,” the Collector said.