NREGA implementation crumbles in Bengal; PBKMS files PIL

Dec 14, 2008. Swapan Ganguly, General Secretary, Paschim Banga Khet Mazoor Samity.

The Calcutta High Court today admitted a public interest litigation on non implementation of the 100 days work guarantee scheme in West Bengal. The Bench consisting of Chief Justice SS Nijjar and Justice Sanjib Banerjee ordered the State and Central Governments to file their replies within two weeks to the allegations raised by Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS), a non party, registered trade union of agricultural workers.

Contention

PBKMS’s contention is that the Central Government and Government of West Bengal have failed miserably in ensuring the Right to Life and Right to Livelihood. through the non-implementation of the legal provisions of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and has thus deprived the rural poor in the State of their legal and constitutional right.

Grounds given by PBKMS

1. While NREGA legally ensures 100 days of employment, West Bengal has miserably failed in this. It created only 14 days of work in 2006-07 and 25 days in 2007-08. According to the draft CAG report, in test checked GPs, average days of work created was 2 days.

2. While NREGA stipulates that 33% of the work created has to be for women, in West Bengal in 2006-07 only 18.28% of work created was for women, and in 2007-08, an even worse performance is visible with only 16.99% work being created for women.

3. When it is unable to provide work, the Government is duty bound to provide unemployment allowance to all persons who have applied for work. It has shown total callousness in this regard. In 2006-07, in the entire state, 151603 people applied for but did not receive work. They were also not given unemployment allowance. In 2007-08, the number of such persons was 76661.

4. 6904 applicants who are members of the PBKMS applied for work and when they did not receive work they applied for unemployment allowance. In a totally arbitrary fashion, the State Government provided only 7 of the above applicants with unemployment allowance. It has given no reasons for non payment to the rest, in spite of repeated requests by PBKMS.

5. Payment of wages by the State Government as per NREGA provisions are to be done within 2 weeks of the work. According to the CAG report, delay in payment of wages beyond fourteen days was also noticed in 14 out of 24 test checked GPs in West Bengal, but no compensation was paid, though the Act says that such compensation must be paid.

6. 600 persons from PBKMS applied for payment of compensation for late payment of wages . None of them have received this compensation.

7. The State Government has in the information it gives to the Central Government website given wrong information. For example in 2007-08, it has shown that it has provided work to all applicants in Purba Midnapore, Paschim Midanpore and Nadia districts. However, applicants in their hundreds from PBKMS applied for work but did not receive employment . Similarly in 2006-07, the State Government has shown that it provided work to 7234 people in Purulia even though they had not asked for work or applied for it. This is in contravention of the Act where work can be only given if an application is made.

8. Many people have been injured or have died at the NREGA work site , but the State Government (in spite of provisions in the law) has not provided them (or their heirs) with compensation or with costs of treatment

9. The State and Central Governments have ignored repeated applications and reminders by PBKMS for removing anomalies in the implementation of the Act. 42 such applications were made in South 24 Parganas district, 16 in Purulia district, 7 in Paschim Midnapore, 1 in Bankura district and 5 in Nadia district i.e 70 applications in all with little response .