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The disastrous condition of the most marginal rural workers who work in the 100 days work programme (MGNREGA) is now a burning issue in West Bengal. For more than six months, the workers are not getting their wages under MGNREGA. Both the central and state government do not seem interested in a solution. They are rather engaged in a war of words and in the exchange of innumerable letters. The Government of India has accused the State Government of corruption. The state government asserts they are being discriminated against for political reasons despite taking corrective action like filing cases against corrupt officials and giving all required information.

Incidentally, in a similar incident in Andhra Pradesh, wages of workers were stopped due to the corruption by the officials of the Gram Samaikhya (the village level organisation). After running from pillar to post for two years, the workers filed a case in Hyderabad High Court , (Writ Petition No- 8548 of 2015). The High Court ordered the state government to immediately clear the unpaid wages of workers, stating that “only an amount of Rs.91,737/- was disbursed and the remaining Rs.1,16,287/- was mis-utilised by the office bearers of the Gramaikya Sangam for their personal gains. The petitioners are not responsible for the misuse and they are entitled for their wages.”

In this scenario it is the poorest strata of rural workers who are being victimised. However, they are not sitting at home and suffering silently. They are on the roads demanding their unpaid wages. With an accumulated amount of 7500 crores owed to West Bengal and no wage transfers after December 2021, both the anger and the suffering of workers is increasing.

On 24th June 2022, members of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samiti(PBKMS) in Purulia district organised a sit in demonstration in front of the office of District Magistrate, Purulia where more than 2500 workers were assembled and raised their demands. A team with representatives of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samiti, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, People’s Action for Employment Guarantee and Right to Food Campaign met with the Director of NREGA, the Secretary and the Joint Secretary of Ministry of Rural Development during 24th -27th June 2022 and raised the demands of the workers. They met with the same old argument of “we have stopped all transfers to West Bengal, because the State Government is non- cooperative, it does not give us accounts, it does not deal with corruption etc.etc.” They have also alleged that they have not been able to sanction any money for the year 2022-23 so far because the West Bengal Government has not even submitted a labour budget so far.

Numerous attempts have been made to meet the state level officials and political leaders in West Bengal. While district level officials in Purulia have met our deputations and expressed helplessness, state level officials have been very reluctant to meet us. In informal discussions they say they have complied with all demands of the Central Government and have given all documents. According to them, the Central Government has remained unsatisfied deliberately and intentionally, though they have given them all the replies and taken all required actions.

On 12th July 2022, state committee member of PBKMS, Swapan Ganguly, presented the union’s future protest program at a press conference in Purulia .

· On 8th July, 5 trade unions in West Bengal including Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samiti, All India Agricultural Workers Union, Bharitya Khet Majdoor Union, All India Agricultural and Rural Labourers Association and Sara Bharat Sanjukta Kisan Sabha, agreed to work together in demand of unpaid wages of workers from village level to state level. They will be observing 1st August 2022 as a day of protest (Pratibad Diwas) for NREGA workers. They will also be organising a national convention in September on issues associated with NREGA.

· PBKMS will organise different protest programmes in 11 blocks of Purulia district from 15th July to 8th August.

· Together with other members of the Right to Food and Work Campaign – West Bengal, PBKMS shall be organising deputations to village, block and district level officials in 21 districts of West Bengal.

· From 2nd to 5th August, about 500 workers from all over the country from NREGA Sangharsh Morcha are sitting in dharna (protest) at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. Members of Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samiti will be present at the event and raise the demands of the workers. During the same period, Right to Food and Work Network- West Bengal network will organise a sit in demonstration at Kolkata to raise this issue.


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