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Cong, social activists threaten protest

Raje had written to Gadkari on June 6 asking why MGNREGA cannot be delivered as a scheme.

Written by Sweta Dutta | Jaipur |
July 5, 2014 2:01:24 am
Vasundhara Raje with Union minister Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi Friday. Vasundhara Raje with Union minister Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi Friday.

The Congress and social activists have threatened mass protests if the Centre agrees to Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje’s suggestion for flexibility in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and treating it as a scheme and not a law.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Union Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday, Raje brought up the issue yet again. Sources said that while the Center agreed “the Act needs a rethink” and that “states need more flexibility”, no commitment was made on an immediate amendment to it. Since any change in the Act has to be done by the Center, a Cabinet note and Bill need to be moved in Parliament.

Raje, as reported by The Indian Express on Friday, had written to Gadkari on June 6 asking why MGNREGA cannot be delivered as a scheme. “It is a moot issue why rural employment should be guaranteed by an Act, and why such employment cannot be delivered, or even guaranteed, as a scheme,” Raje told the minister.

Protesting the CM’s demand, activists accused Raje of high-handedness in not consulting social organisations and the target group of the Act. Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan pointed out it was during Raje’s previous tenure that Rajasthan was the frontrunner in implementing the scheme and had a whopping expenditure of Rs 6,275 crore. “If she were to go back to her own achievement, the state would have a projected spending of close to Rs 10,000 crore this fiscal year. But without the Act, the state will have no guarantee of allocation from the Center,” argued Dey.

Kavita Srivastava, general secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, alleged, “Raje wants to supply cheap labour to the Industry. She has diluted three labour laws which will be passed in the forthcoming assembly session.”

The Congress too protested the proposal. Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot said, “The BJP came to power in the state promising 15 lakh jobs, but now it is taking away even the jobs that are already guaranteed. By undoing this flagship programme, the state government is denying people who have been getting financial assistance. We condemn the proposal and perceive that it is an attempt to keep wages low in rural areas. This is an absolute retrogressive step.”

Activists from across the state came together on Friday and have drafted an open letter to Raje condemning her letter to Gadkari. “… we are shocked by it. We hope she will change her position and ensure a strong implementation of the Act within its framework,” Dey said.

Centre trying to ‘dilute’ Act: CPM

New Delhi: The CPM on Friday accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of trying to “dilute” the UPA regime’s flagship MGNREGA, and demanded the law be strengthened and workers paid on time.

Reacting to a report in The Indian Express on Friday that Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje has written to Union Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari asking for the Act to be scrapped and converted to a scheme instead, CPM politburo member Brinda Karat said this government was only acting in the interest of corporate houses and not the poor.

“There is grave apprehension that after assuming power, the BJP government is incrementally taking steps to dilute and destroy MGNREGA,” Karat said. “A party which promised job creation as a key part of its campaign is now suggesting the elimination of the only legal guarantee for creation of jobs – the MGNREGA,” she added.

In a letter to Gadkari on Friday, Karat has urged the minister to “allay the deep apprehensions” that Raje’s letter may create among the rural poor. She also said it was “shocking” that in 2013-14, 60 per cent of the wages were not paid within the 15 days as stipulated by the Act.

The letter also claimed compensation for delayed wage payment has also not been paid, adding that the issue of unemployment allowance has also been “neglected”.

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