Civil rights organization, NREGA Sansgharsh Morcha, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a copy to Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Narendra Singh Tomar, insisted that the Indian government immediately start implementing a special package 50 days for each NREGA Worker beyond the current provisions. as allowed by the main circular NREGA 2019-20 of the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD).
Signed by Anuradha Talwar for NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, the letter says this is particularly important “given the national disaster caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”, especially given that “NREGA workers are among the most socio-economically vulnerable. sections of society and have almost zero social security.
As you know, almost all states are under strict foreclosure, which has resulted in great economic distress among rural communities. The Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) reported an unemployment rate of 8% in April from 6.5% in March and that around 7.35 million people lost their jobs between March and the end of April.
The CMIE also reported that the weekly rural unemployment rate for the week ending June 13 was 12%, which is significantly high. With businesses closing, job losses and reduced wages, many people are pledging their gold savings to borrow money to meet basic expenses as well as emergency medical needs. According to the latest data from the RBI, loans against gold have jumped 82% since March 2020. At the same time, consumer spending fell for the first time in the past 40 years.
Migrant workers are once again faced with the maximum weight of blockages imposed by the state. Millions of migrants face a shortage of food and money and need immediate support. Many migrant workers are returning to their afflicted and jobless villages and millions of people are stranded in different parts of the country without money. This will lead to a severe cash shortage for rural households and increased indebtedness as remittances either decrease or come to a complete stop.
Small and marginal farmers are heavily dependent on the wages of various rural public and private works which have also stopped or have been drastically reduced. In the tribal pockets of the country, this dependence is even more due to low land ownership and intergenerational land transfers. Health spending has also increased, which has increased stress on poor households.
In these circumstances, NREGA is a lifeline and a powerful option to avoid acute economic crises in rural areas. While last year the government allocated an additional 40,000 crore rupees to NREGA on top of the budgeted estimate to deal with the situation, this time the budget allocation is significantly lower than the actual spending of the NREGA. last year.
Workers have to gain additional income opportunities through the program to cope with their huge losses. According to NREGA’s official Management Information System (MIS), as of June 14, more than 1.07 lakh of households had already used up their 100 days.
Section 4.2.3 of the main NREGA 2019-20 circular enabled the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) to notify 50 days of additional unskilled manual labor, in addition to the existing provision of 100 days, for all households holders of a work permit residing in areas affected by drought or other natural disasters.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a serious calamity and has caused massive disruption in the lives of the poor and every individual is affected. The current situation requires that every NREGA worker can access additional employment for at least 50 days.
So, seeing the current pandemic situation as a national disaster, we ask that you notify an additional 50 days of employment for each NREGA worker across the country as a special package with enabling rules and guidelines to enable a wide range of handicrafts in different categories in NREGA.
According to NREGA’s official management information system, as of June 14, more than 1.07 lakh households have already used up their 100 days
We have also observed that salary payments have been quite irregular and inopportune. It is unacceptable that payments are delayed at a time when poor households are struggling to cope with various losses due to the widespread health and economic crisis created by the pandemic.
In these circumstances, we require the following:
- Notify and implement a special 50-day package (per person) for NREGA in addition to the existing entitlement of 100 days per household.
- Allocate an additional budget for 50 additional working days for 29 crore workers from families holding a 15 crore work card. Funds can be secured from the government’s disaster management budget, e.g. National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF)
- All family members holding a NREGA work card should be subject to the state Employment Insurance Act.
- The central government is expected to provide one-time monetary compensation to families of NREGA workers affected by the virus. Compensation may be paid at the notified NREGA daily wage rate (for the State concerned) for 30 days.
- NREGA wages should be set at Rs. 600 / day in line with the recommendations of the 7th Compensation Committee and payment processes should be streamlined to ensure weekly payments to workers at the job site itself.
We hope you will appreciate the need for such a measure at this point and hope that you will accept this request.