Of 7,617 persons in Palghar’s Dahanu taluka who sought work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) since the imposition of the lockdown, only 68 were given employment as of May 10. These were applications for work under the flagship employment guarantee scheme submitted to village gram sevaks in writing or via WhatsApp through the intervention of the Kashtakari Sanghathana.
Similarly, in Jawhar, while 144 people sent applications, none had received work as of May 10. The applications were sent from 36 villages in Dahanu, Vikramgad and Jawhar talukas, all tribal-dominated regions.
Contending that a huge majority of those who demanded work in Dahanu are being denied work, activist Brian Lobo of the Kashtakari Sanghatana on Monday wrote to Palghar Collector Dr Kailash Shinde saying the administration has made only feeble efforts to provide employment despite the state and Central governments instructing local agencies to implement provisions of the MGNREGA.
Lobo said some gram sevaks have not even visited certain hamlets despite receiving applications. In the two hamlets of Chalni and Sukhadamba, from where a total of 2,806 applications for work were sent, the gram sevak has reportedly not visited.
Another problem is that in some cases applicants are left out of lists of potential workers because they are already listed for construction of homes under the gharkul scheme, construction for which is also included under MGNREGA. But as gharkul construction is stalled in most places owing to the lockdown, difficulties in getting material, etc, these applicants are in effect unable to get work. Also, Lobo said, gharkul works are limited to about 15 days of labour.
“Even where works have been started, very few workers have been employed — for example 10 workers in Ambesari, or six workers in Khubala. Further, the works last for a very short period of time, such as six days in Chambharshet, six days in Ambesari Materpada. This is when workers have asked to be provided work continuously until the end of June,” Lobo told The Indian Express.
A very large percentage of tribals from this region, mostly subsistence farmers or landless labourers, migrate to Mumbai, Vasai, Boisar and Bhiwandi for work during the non-farming season. With work unavailable now at the brick kilns dotting Bhiwandi and Vasai, at construction sites and with residents back in their native villages during the lockdown, the demand for work is high.
Lobo’s letter to the Collector has asked for sufficient employment to be provided immediately to all workers, and also payment of unemployment allowance until then.
Senior officials said MGNREGA works were in fact underway in the taluka, and any specific complaints would be addressed immediately. Two teams from the tehsildar’s office are to visit all gram panchayats in the taluka on Wednesday.
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