Calcutta HC directs DM’s to take appropriate action in MGNREGA imbroglio

Wages to workers under MGNREGA have not been paid since December 2021 and the PBKMS, a union of agricultural workers had filed the petition before the High Court on November 28.

Updated - January 15, 2023 10:25 pm IST

Published - January 15, 2023 08:50 pm IST - KOLKATA

Calcutta High Court.

Calcutta High Court. | Photo Credit: SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH

 

The Calcutta High Court has directed District Magistrates in West Bengal to “take appropriate action” in the imbroglio relating to implementation of MGNREGA after Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) provides details of the aggrieved workers.

Wages to workers under MGNREGA have not been paid since December 2021 and the PBKMS, a union of agricultural workers had filed the petition before the High Court on November 28. The petition sought payment of pending MGNREGA wages, unemployment allowance to workers as well as resumption of work under the 100 days scheme. 

“We dispose of the present petition by permitting the petitioner to file the detailed comprehensive representation along with the particulars of the affected/aggrieved workers before the District Magistrate, Purulia, who on receipt of the same will conduct an enquiry and will take appropriate action in accordance with law after giving an opportunity of hearing to all the concerned parties,” an order by the High Court said.

The order by the division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj on January 9 stated that in “respect of other districts also, if the petitioner finds such irregularities, then he will be at liberty to file appropriate representation before the concerned District Magistrate”.

Reacting to Calcutta High Court order Anuradha Talwar of PBKMS said that the development has left samity with mixed feelings. “On the one hand we are happy with the quick disposal of the case – this was only the second date and the State and Central Government had not even filed their replies to our petition,” Ms. Talwar added.

The agricultural workers union representative, however, added that the order however puts the onus of collecting this information once again on workers, who are already reeling from poverty and deprivation caused by unpaid wages.

A press statement by PBKMS also added that the association welcomes the High Court’s direction “as the DMs have so far been ignoring our deputations and representations with our claims”. The PBKS also claimed that the Union Government has also not allotted any funds for MGNREGA in 2022-23 to West Bengal and therefore no new works have been started despite workers demanding work. While the Union Government has highlighted rampant corruption and irregularities behind its reason for stopping MGNREGA funds, the State Government has alleged that the Centre was denying rightful dues to the State.

A report NREGA Sangarsh Morcha, In December 2022 had stated Centre has been withholding the release of over ₹7,500 crore MGNREGA funds to the state of which the pending wages are touching a staggering figure of ₹2,744 crore.

Amidst the political slugfest between the political parties at the Centre and the State, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has raised the issue a number of times before the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “What more will I have to do, should I touch his (Prime Minister’s) feet,” Ms. Banerjee has said responding to a question on the MGNREGA dues to West Bengal. 

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