After being denied their rightful work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), hundreds of rural labourers from different villages across Kalaburagi district staged a demonstration outside the zilla panchayat office in Kalaburagi on November 15.
Alleging denial of work by Panchayat Development Officers (PDOs) in several gram panchayats even after submitting applications and completing all the procedures as per the Act, the labourers approached zilla panchayat Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dileesh Sasi seeking action against delinquent PDOs. Some of the protesting women even complained that the PDOs simply did not accept their applications for jobs.
“Getting work under NREGA is our lawful right, and not your charity. It is your responsibility to give work to the people who seek jobs under the Act within 15 days of receiving the application and make payment within 15 days of completion of work,” said Abhay Kumar, a leader of Grameena Koolikaarmikara Sanghatane (GRAKOOS), an organisation of rural labourers, told the zilla panchayat officers at the protest site.
Mr. Sasi called a few representatives of the labourers to his chamber and discussed the issues in detail for about an hour. He later sent some officials, including zilla panchayat Deputy Secretary Mohammad Ismail, Kalaburagi taluk panchayat Executive Officer Manappa Kattimani, and Assistant Director Pundit Sindhe, to the protest site to address the grievances on the spot. As the officials sat with the protestors, the women began pouring out their problems related to the job scheme and complained about denial of work by the PDOs.
The officials immediately summoned some of the PDOs.
When Mr. Kattimani pointed out a couple of errors in the application and asked the protest leaders to educate job seekers on the NREGA procedure, Mr. Abhay countered by asking the official to first sensitise the PDOs and other officials in the gram panchayat on provisions of the NREGA.
“Your local officials are denying work to people in need. When a PDO is not in his office, other functionaries in the gram panchayat do not accept applications for jobs. The local officials are not giving work even several weeks after submission of applications. Most of the PDOs have not even read the provisions of NREGA even 14 years after the Act was enacted. First, sensitise your officers about the Act before educating the poor labourers,” Mr. Abhay told the official.
Mr. Abhay also demanded that rural labourers be allowed to raise their NREGA-related issues in the PDO meeting that were regularly held so that the problems would be addressed in the presence of higher officials.
The labourers submitted to the ZP officials a list of gram panchayats in the district that denied work under the job scheme.