Thousands of men and women from as many as 15 districts in the State took out a protest rally, from Chikka Lalbagh to Banappa Park in the City, demanding jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), on Tuesday.
The protesters rallied under the banner of Grameena Coolie Karmikara Sanghatane (Grakoos), which is a union of rural workers in Karnataka.
“When we approach the Gram Panchayats seeking jobs that we are entitled to under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), we are turned down saying that computers are ‘locked,’ said Devyamma, from Ramapur in Raichur district.
Devyamma said: “We demand the officers concerned be present at the Panchayat offices to receive our applications for jobs. Most of the times we have to return empty handed, as we are told that projects allocated for the year have been completed.” Muthappa, an agricultural worker from Munaganahalli in Chintamani taluk, said panchayat officers decline to receive Form 6 from those seeking work.
Job cards of Venkatalakshmamma and others in Chintamani taluk showed that they got to work for only 11 days in 2009.
Addressing the workers, social activist Aruna Roy of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan (MKSS) in Rajasthan said the government had no right to deny jobs to workers under the Scheme. ‘Give 300 days of work’
Moreover, the Act does not allow any role to contractors, the former IAS officer and Magsaysay award winner said, and asked agricultural labourers to register complaints about non-implementation of the MGNREGS with workers’ unions in their respective villages, taluks and districts.
Agricultural workers from Bidar, Gulbarga, Belgaum, Gadag, Haveri, Bagalkot, Tumkur and other districts who had gathered at Banappa Park, demanded that each family be given 300 days of work, minimum wages be increased from Rs 125 per day, job cards for all workers registered, social security benefits such as medical insurance, maternity benefits and pensions for workers as well as transparency norms like social audits, worksite boards, wall writings of expenditure at gram panchayats and display of entries.
Addressing the lack of machinery and shortage of manpower at panchayat levels to implement the Act, strengthening the grievance redress system, the modification of work rates for aged, women and the disabled were some of the other demands of the protesters.
Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey also of MKSS and Abhay Kumar of Navajeevana Mahila Okkuta, Raichur,met the Chief Secretary to discuss the non-implementation of the Scheme.