If as many as one crore cards were found out to be fake, how come the government hasn’t implicated a single government official? an activist asked.
Action must be taken against government officials if over one crore Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) job cards have been cancelled for being fake, said activists.
On Wednesday, a panel of experts led by social activist Nikhil Dey condemned the “anti-poor” stance and accused the central government of undermining MGNREGA.
The panel raised a number of issues regarding the implementation of the MGNREGA that ensures employment to the rural population following media reports of cancellation of close to one crore “fake” job cards.
Along with Dey, Annie Raja, general secretary, National federation of Indian women, Jayati Ghosh, professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Kavita Srivastav, convener, Right to Food Campaign, Kamayani Swamy of Central Employment Guarantee Council and researcher Ankita Aggarwal were part of the panel that addressed the media on Wednesday.
Questioning the government’s decision to cancel the job cards, Aggarwal said, “It’s clearly stipulated in the act that no job card can be cancelled unless it is found to be duplicate, or if the entire household has permanently migrated or in case of the death of the beneficiaries. They are not supposed to delete even the inactive cards – the cards which have not been used for more than three years. If as many as one crore cards were found out to be fake, how come the government hasn’t implicated a single government official?”
Aggarwal said that the reasons mentioned for deletion of job cards in most of the reports are “other” and “unwilling to work”, which is a clear violation of the act.
Dey raised the question of huge wage arrears of the workers, who have completed work allotted to them under the scheme. “The complete onus of this falls on the centre, since state governments have no role to play in making the payments. They’re supposed to make an assessment of the required amount of the funds in their labour budget, but it’s the centre that directly deposits the money in the workers’ accounts,” he said.
Ghosh said that the assessment of the state governments under-represents the need for the allocation for MGNREGA and the centre further reduces the already conservative budget presented by the states.
“When the government is taking pride in making the highest budgetary allocation to the scheme, they need to realise that it is not a present from the government. The law states that where there is demand, the government has to provide wages. And, the central government has continuously underprovided for the scheme. Almost one fourth of its budgetary allocation is the pending amount from the last year, which is whopping Rs 11, 000 crore,” she said.
Raja criticised the government’s proposal to link Aadhaar to bank accounts under MGNREGA. “In principle, I am against Aadhaar. The supreme court has repeatedly told the government that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory. The government data itself says that 54 percent workers do not possess Aadhaar. They will be denied their legal right to demand work as they don’t possess Aadhaar,” she said.