MGNREGA workers in West Bengal seek work under ‘Khela Hobe’ scheme

In Purulia alone, 741 workers had applied for work underthe Khela Hobe scheme, aimed at providing employment to MGNREGA workers; no work has been given to the applicants

Published - October 31, 2023 11:37 am IST - Kolkata

With no sign of the implementation of the ‘Khela Hobe’ scheme to provide employment to the people of West Bengal on the lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), a union of agricultural workers has stepped up the heat on the Trinamool Congress (TMC) by applying for work under the scheme.

After the MGNREGA scheme came to a halt in the State, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during the annual martyrs’ day rally of her party on July 21, 2023 announced a scheme called ‘Khela Hobe‘ (game is on) to provide employment to MGNREGA workers. Khela Hobe was one of the slogans used by the TMC leadership during its successful campaign for the 2021 Assembly election in the State.

“In the first 2 weeks of October , 741 workers have applied for work under Khela Hobe in Purulia alone,” a press statement by Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) said. The group claimed no work had been given to those who had made the applications. There is no clarity on the ‘Khela Hobe’ scheme in the State since its announcement.

According to the PBKMS, the West Bengal government had announced in the State Assembly that they had spent ₹1,562 crore to give work to 24 lakh job card holders but the union said there was no sign of this work in Purulia or the other districts of the State.

It has been almost 22 months since December 2021, when the Union government decided to stop payment for MGNREGA in the State by invoking Section 27 of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act alleging widespread corruption.

Raising questions over why the Union government could not complete the investigation into allegations of corruption 22 months since, PBKMS activist Anuradha Talwar said that in the months to come, distress among agricultural workers would increase, particularly in the economically backward district of Purulia. 

PBKMS also blamed the BJP leadership in West Bengal for turning a blind eye to the plight of agricultural workers.

“With 7 MLAs out of 9 from BJP and all 3 MPs (shared with Jhargram and Bankura) from BJP, the deafening silence of the BJP on the impact of this wage freeze on genuine workers in Purulia is quite amazing. They continue to raise the issue of corruption to justify the freeze on funds to West Bengal, oblivious of the great misery to which they are subjecting this large section of voters,” the union said in a press statement.

The PBKMS has raised its pitch on the plight of agricultural workers when the TMC’s deadline to the Union government on releasing funds to MGNREGA workers is drawing to a close.

Trinamool general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has said that he would resume protests if funds were not released to MGNREGA workers who have worked on the scheme in the State. After protests in Delhi on October 2 and 3, the Trinamool Congress general secretary held protests outside Raj Bhavan from October 9 to 14. Governor C.V. Ananda Bose assured a TMC delegation that met him that he would take up the issue with the Centre.

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