November 03, 2019

AIAWU to Hold Convention on Employment & MNREGA

THE issue of employment has taken a serious turn in our society with unemployment rising to its highest in 50 years.  Therefore the primary consideration should be to maximise work opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed. One of the most effective safety nets in this process has been the passage of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (now the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) under the UPA government due to the pressure of long struggles of mass organisations and unions including the All India Agricultural Workers Union, for the right to work.

This act was an important step towards the realisation of the right to work and to ensure the security of survival in the rural areas of the country. But it is also important to keep in mind the limitations of this act, as it does not guarantee full time work but only employment of 100 days per household per year on prescribed minimum wages. MGNREGA offers the legal right to work for those who demand it within a time frame at a specified wage to be paid within 15 days.  This demand is placed by the job seekers on a plain piece of paper and they have to be provided work within two weeks or the unemployment relief. It also specifies equal wages for equal work, crèches for children, medical facilities, shade and drinking water among other things. There is also a provision for the gram sabha to enquire into charges of corruption and delay of wages.  However, while no less than 13 crore rural labourers have applied for work reflecting its need, the central government has failed not only to provide adequate work at adequate wages but has failed even to pay wages in time to those living on the verge of starvation.

The Narendra Modi led NDA government has done its best to destroy the law through a relentless funds squeeze, delays in payments, technological anomalies and lack of any avenue for grievance redressal. Despite this, they were forced to increase the amount allocated in 2016-17 on account of drought and floods reflecting the objective necessity of this legislation even though only half the people who applied for work were given less than 50 days work per year. But at the same time, this legislation helped agricultural labourers and rural workers to get better wages in their daily work.  

The All India Agricultural Workers Union has decided organise an all India convention on employment and MNREGA on November 4, 2019 at Mavalankar Hall in New Delhi.  The convention will be attended by more than 600 delegates from different states, including Kerala, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra among others. Leaders of the trade union movement, the Kisan Sabha and women’s organisations will also address the convention.  

The convention will discuss and identify the issues and will evolve a joint resistance to save MNREGA.