Kolkata

Studies on food security and MGNREGS reveal severe distress in West Bengal

Activists addressing the media after the release of ‘Hunger Watch Report 2021’ at Kolkata Press Club.

Activists addressing the media after the release of ‘Hunger Watch Report 2021’ at Kolkata Press Club. | Photo Credit: Debasish Bhaduri

 

 At a time when West Bengal politics seems to be centered around recovery of piles of cash in connection with a recruitment scam, two reports on hunger and denial of work and wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has revealed severe distress in rural areas of the State. The reports were released by civil rights activist at the Kolkata Press Club on Thursday.   

While the Hunger Watch Report 2021 reported that 53 % of the respondents said that they skipped a meal,  the non-payment of wages of MGNREGS for the past seven months has brought the scheme to complete halt. 

 “A high portion of 69 % reported to have gone without eating for a whole day and 57 % reported to be hungry but did not eat and 53 % reported having had to skip a meal,” a press statement by Right to Food and Work campaign, West Bengal, said. The Hunger Watch II survey was conducted with 1992 households across 16 districts with the support of 20 organisations in December 2021 and January 2022. The researchers who looked at the aspect of hunger found that only 19 % household surveyed had a household member who worked on MGNREGS worksite in preceding three months before the survey. 

Residents of Kulpheni village near Salboni in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal being engaged into 100 days work under the MGNREGS scheme. File photo

Residents of Kulpheni village near Salboni in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal being engaged into 100 days work under the MGNREGS scheme. File photo | Photo Credit: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

 The report on Fact Finding Investigating the Stoppage of MGNREGS Work and Wages in West Bengal pointed out that very little, if any, work has been provided to the workers in FY2022-23 .“Workers have not been paid for the work they have done since 26th December, 2021. Most workers do not know why they have not been given work or wages. Non-payment of wages has impacted food security, especially among single women and widows,” the findings pointed out.

 The fact-finding held across districts of Purulia, Nadia and South 24 Parganas in July 2022 pointed out that absence of MGNREGS work has resulted in increased migration and stoppage of works like embankments and irrigation channels has had an adverse impact on livelihoods of the communities and the environment. The West Bengal government and Centre are locked in a bitter war of words over the non-payment of wages with Centre blaming the State of corruption in implementation of MGNREGS and the State accusing the Centre of “ economic blockade”.

The fact-finding committee that comprised of activists from different States demanded that pending wages to the tune of ₹2,600 crores for all MGNREGS workers need to be released immediately by the Centre along with the delay compensation per the Act. They also called that the State Government should make social audit unit independent from bureaucratic and political interference

“We are extremely disappointed in how MGNREGS has been used as a battleground for the political tussle between the Central and State governments without caring about violation of right to life of more than 3.4 crore registered workers across the state. Denial of work and wages is in contravention to the Supreme court’s judgment in ‘Swaraj Abhiyan vs Union of India’(Writ petition 857/2015) case,” a press statement said. 


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2022 1:59:58 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/studies-on-food-security-and-mgnregs-reveal-severe-distress-in-west-bengal/article65694763.ece