From 25.07.2022 to 27.07.2022, a fact-finding team consisting of members from CSOs, unions and organizations working on MGNREGA from all over the country visited West Bengal to report on the stoppage of work and wages under MGNREGA in the state. Three teams visited three districts (Purulia, South 24 Paraganas and Nadia) and interacted extensively with workers and government officials. The interim findings from the fact-finding visit have been summarized in this press note.
- 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
- Non-payment of wages has impacted food security, especially among single women and Many workers ha1d to take loans from microfinance institutions and even private lenders at exorbitant rates.
- Absence of MGNREGA work has resulted in increased In cases where people do not have the option of migrating, workers have resorted to foraging or taking up employment opportunities at a lower wage rate compared to the MGNREGA wage rate.
- Stoppage of works like embankments and irrigation channels has had an adverse impact on livelihoods of the communities and the
Based on the findings we put forth the following demands:
- All the documents pertaining to correspondence between the Central Government and the State Government, including the reports of central team visits and action taken, on MGNREGA since 2019 should be made public by the Central and State Governments.
- The Labour Budget has to be approved immediately by the Centre. In addition, the State Government should commence MGNREGA works without further In FY 2021-22, workers had earned wages of around Rs. 2,700 crore in the first four months.
- The pending wages to the tune of 2,600 crores for all MGNREGA workers need to be released immediately by the Centre along with the delay compensation per the Act. In addition, the State Government should pay unemployment allowance to all active job card holders from 1st April 2022 till the works resume, as per the Act, irrespective of whether the workers have demanded work.
- The State Government should make social audit unit independent from bureaucratic and political It needs to be strengthened to encourage citizen oversight. In addition, concurrent audits should be conducted, given the scale of corruption allegations.
- The State Government should ensure strict action against the perpetrators and the recovery of funds in all cases where corruption has already been identified and
- The State Government should create a separate revolving fund, of at least 3,500 crores, for MGNREGA to ensure timely payment of wages in the event of future delays in payments.
We are extremely disappointed in how MGNREGA has been used as a battleground for the political tussle between the Central and State governments without caring about the impact on the lives and livelihoods of more than 1 crore registered workers. We appeal to the media, CSOs and the people of West Bengal to come together and pressurise the Central and State Governments to ensure that MGNREGA is implemented to the full extent of the spirit of the Act and the rights of workers are upheld.