Destroying MGNREGA


In a briefing organized by Peoples' Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) and NREGA Sangharsh Morcha in Delhi’s Constitutional Club on March 14, CPIML General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said that under Modi regime, we are witnessing a drastic rise in both urban and rural unemployment and at the same time, employee guarantee schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act are being systematically dismantled by slashing budget allocation. On the other hand, we see rich corporates are reaping benefits like tax reliefs, concessions and divestment of PSUs.

“Modi government is attacking people’s livelihood and pushing people into poverty,” he added. In the recent budget, the central government has cut down the allocation for MGNREGA to just Rs 60,000 crore in 2023-24 (less than Rs 50,000 crore if we deduct wage arrears from 2022-23). In the briefing organized for various political parties and Members of Parliament, serious concerns were raised against the compulsory use of the National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) App for 'attendance" for the workers since January 1.

Jean Dreze, economist and activist noted that wage payments are now conditional on timely uploading of workers’ photographs twice a day, using the new app. Despite the poor connectivity in rural areas and issues with functionality of the app, the government had made the NMMS system mandatory which is wreaking havoc on people’s lives.

Another issue that is threatening the livelihood of the people is the Aadhaar-Based Payment System (ABPS) for MGNREGA payment, which was made compulsory from February 1, 2023. The issue around linking Aadhaar with welfare and social schemes has been well documented. Such linking has led to numerous cases of denial of payment or ration or even access to healthcare and education. For instance, in October 2017, 60-year-old Ruplal Marandi, a Adivasi man from Jharkhand’s Deoghar district died after his family was denied rations for two months due Biometric authentication failure and Marandi was unable to prove his identity. The MGNREGA workers have pointed out that such authentication failures are common and they have strongly opposed the move to link payment to Aadhaar.

Earlier speaking at 100-days sit-in protest organised by MGNREGA workers on March 3 in Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, AICCTU General Secretary Rajiv Dimri expressing solidarity with the struggles of MNREGA workers, criticised the Modi government for highly insufficient and undignified low wage rates under the Scheme, and that too remained unpaid for lakhs of the workers for up to months.

He said that the government intends to scrap this very important scheme and this is why the funds allocation is being decreased year by year irrespective of rising demands for works under the scheme. He opposed forcible implementation of NMMS App for attendance which is nothing but a design for digital exclusion of MNREGA aspirants and demanded this App to be scrapped.

Purushottam Sharma, AIKM leader, Shweta Raj, GS of Delhi ASHA Kamgar Union, Neeraj, GS of RYA, Ravi Rai, Secretary of CPIML Delhi State Committee and Rajiv Dimri, AICCTU GS also attended Tuesday’s briefing on MGNREGA.