Rights groups want govt. to stop MGNREGA projects

‘Allowing works amid pandemic is putting lives at risk’

Taking strong exception to the government’s decision of allowing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) works amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Human Rights Forum (HRF) and Samalochana, an NGO, have said that it would pose risk to the lives of the workers.

They demanded immediate stoppage of the works.

“We call upon the government to pay all registered MGNREGA workers (including the inactive workers) their full wages as advance during the lockdown period. These wages should not be paid as unemployment allowance, but as wages for the period when they should have been working, but are unable to do so,” said V.S. Krishna of HRF.

With more than 93 lakh registered workers, Andhra Pradesh is one of India’s leading States in implementation of the MGNREGA.

“The scheme has been the lifeline for lakhs of households as it provides livelihood security . What is worrisome is that more than 8.3 lakh workers were engaged in various MGNREGA works across the State on Wednesday (April 15). Prakasam district where many mandals have been declared as containment zones, recorded the highest number of 1.95 lakh workers reporting for work on Wednesday,” said B. Chakradhar of Samalochana.

Given the pandemic, continuing NREGA works amounts to a violation of human rights of the workers. “Given the nature of works, it would not be practically possible to ensure social distancing. Rather, it is putting the workers’ life at risk, he added.

According to Mr. Krishna, even as the pending dues have been cleared, many workers are not in a position to collect them as banking correspondent services and customer service points remain non-functional. The government should ensure door delivery of wages through village volunteers, he said.

“The government should automatically enrol all MGNREGA workers as registered workers under the Building and Other Construction Workers (BoCW) Act so that they can avail of social security benefits in the form of insurance, scholarships for children’s education, pensions and etc,” said Mr. Krishna.

Automatic enrolment

As most of the migrant workers are not attending works they would have slipped into the inactive workers category. Many beneficiaries might have their job cards deleted in the workers’ lists. “We urge the government to increase in man days of work to 200 per job card and ensure automatic re-enrolment of all whose job cards have been deleted for the next year to accommodate more workers. There must be adequate budgetary allocation,” pointed out Mr. Chakradhar.

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Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 6:38:30 PM |

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