Wednesday, March 9, 2011

268 - Activists to send low wage feat' to Guinness - The Times of India

Activists to send low wage feat' to Guinness
TNN, Oct 7, 2010, 12.35am IST
JAIPUR: In a bitter reaction to payment of low wages of Re 1 under MNREGA in Rajasthan, the agitating activists of Suchna Evum Rozgar Ka Adhikar Abhiyan have decided to send this rare "feat" of the government to the " Guinness Book of World Record" as the only of its kind trend in the world. There have been instances in Rajasthan when Re 1 per day was paid as wages for work done for about a fortnight under the MNREGA.

"Paying wages as low as Re 1 must be the most unique episode of paying pittance. I doubt if there are any precedence of this kind in the world. If Guinness takes note of our application, probably it will wake up the state government," said Nikhil Dey, one of the leading activists involved with the ongoing campaign seeking increase in MNREGA wages.

About 99 people in Gudaliya village in Tonk district had toiled hard for 11 days to dig a check-dam under the rural employment guarantee scheme. But when it came to wages, they were paid only Rs 11. That is Re 1 for each day's labour. So irked were the workers that they on the first day of their agitation on Saturday deposited the money to the chief minister's relief fund. "Only someone who is more poor than us will need this money," they said. However, officials have been maintaining that the workers were paid Re 1 as they had not done any work at all.

But that is just one amongst the big agenda that the Abhiyan unfolded on Wednesday to be carried out during their indefinite dharna here near Statue Circle. The sit-in is in protest of anomalies surrounding NREGA in the state and in demand for a more transparent system.

The Abhiyan will be holding discussions on Section 4 of the RTI on October 9 while the next day there will be discussions on whether NREGA has managed to reach the disabled people. On October 15, a session would be held on rights of labourers under NREGA while October 25 will be discussions on NREGA and empowerment of panchayats. On October 30, the labourers pay commission that has been formed and that includes people like Jean Dreze will give its verdict as to what the minimum wages in the state should be.

The Abhiyan will be filing applications under the RTI on September 7 to the district collectors of the 33 districts here demanding an enquiry into the purchases made at the district level under NREGA.

On Wednesday the sit-in got bigger with villagers from Khaiwara, Kotra, Jhadole from Udaipur district, Relmangra in Rajsamand district and others from Baran and Nagaur joining in the agitation.

At the sit in stories of under payment unfolded with one Karan Singh of Untwalia village in Nagaur narrating on how he toiled for building a gravelled road between Untwalia and Saranpura between September 16 to 30 but was paid just Rs 150 when the muster rolls showed his payment as Rs 360. "I wrote to one and all concerned regarding the anomaly but my pleas went unheard," he said.

Another NREGA mate Jankilal Sahriya informed that even after 15 days the payments were not made at the Hatri village in Baran though under the Act it is mandatory that payments are to be made within a fortnight. "We enquired with various officials but all were at a loss," he said.

The sit-in is expected to gather momentum in the coming days with people from many more villages expected to join in.