Hundreds of daily-wage workers gathered in Kolkata today to recount their problems in getting jobs under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS),an ambitious project of the Centre to cut rampant rural unemployment.
Many of the job-seekers alleged that local CPM cadres in villages and the bureaucracy at the block level came in the way of their guaranteed 100 days of work a year. The gathering included daily-wage workers from several districts including South 24 Parganas,Nadia and some North Bengal districts.
For the past two months,since we got our job cards,we have been trying hard to get some work in vain. Finally,we got work just for a day,that too on a festive day; and we were paid only Rs 22 against the sanctioned Rs 68, said Mohon Mahato,a tribal labourer fom Purulia.
The meeting was organised by West Bengal Khet Majoor Samity,an NGO working for job-seekers under the NREGS.
The ordeal of the labourers is also borne out in the latest state government report on the NREGS,which says that in 2008-09 (up to January 23),only 22 per cent of the job-seeker were provided with jobs in the state under the scheme.
In its report,the Samity said though implementation of the Act has led to a marginal reduction in the migration of labourers from the state,in many cases the available funds were used for other development work in the villages.
Though the state government claimed that Bankura and West Midnapore are performing well and were awarded for their achievements,the actual picture is far from so rosy. In 2008-09 (up to January 23),Bankura district created only 20 man-days of employment for every job-seeking household while the figure in West Midnapore was 22,according to government statistics.
The national average stands at 40 man-days per household for the same period.