November 17, 2010 Center and Rajasthan State Governments Accede to Workers’ Demands After Historic 47-Day Satyagraha

Today, on the 47th day of this historic Satyagraha, we will lift our dharna with both the Center and State governments having agreed to the workers’ demands. On November 11, Mrs Gandhi wrote to the Prime Minister communicating the consensus reached in the NAC meeting on October 23, that workers should be paid minimum wages as notified under Minimum Wages Act 1948 and called his attention to find urgent resolution of the matter. As an interim step to immediately mitigate the crisis, the letter suggested, “An immediate solution could be reversion to section 6(2) of the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA. This was discussed in the NAC meeting of October 23rd 2010 and is being suggested by the Chief Ministers. It is line with the emergency and final recommendation of the Central Employment Guarantee Council’s Working Group on Wages” and quotes the Andhra Pradesh High Court order of July 2009 that: “by suspending the operation of the impugned notification, sub-section (2) of Section 6 of the Rural Employment Guarantee Act, would spring automatically into operation, treating as if the impugned notification has not been made by the Central Government under sub-section (1) of Section 6”. With the endorsement of our stand by Mrs. Gandhi, Chairperson of the NAC and the UPA, we are assured that the rights of the workers will be respected, and the Central government will urgently issue necessary orders in line with suggestions made by Mrs. Gandhi. Rajasthan Government too has agreed to our demands and has assured us in writing of the following: 1. To index minimum wage with inflation 2. Set up mechanism to give NREGA workers compensation for late payments 3. The Collector of the Gudliya village (Tonk district) will take action by Nov 30 on the complaint against payment of Rs 1 per day to 99 workers for eleven days of work

4. Register NREGA Workers’ Union on appeal against refusal order 5. Properly implement the NREGA piece-rate payment system to ensure that payments are made in groups of five based on proper daily measurements, and immediately discontinue the practice of making average wage payments With these two documents, Rajasthan workers have won a historic victory not just for themselves, but by incontrovertibly establishing the principles for workers’ rights, will ensure cascading victories for workers across the country. This 47-day historic Satyahraha has highlighted many issues of democratic and administrative significance. Through administrative expenditure analysis, the Satyagraha has exposed the self-serving structure of the administration, which leave negligible money for even workers’ and citizens basic needs. The Satyagraha has also proposed solutions to establish the administration’s accountability. Workers from the most marginalized sections have come to the Statue Circle to present their demands through public hearings and establish basic rights of all citizens. The dharna has been a remarkable show of solidarity as diverse peoples have come together on issues of basic human values, dignity and development. We conclude the dharna by lighting workers’ diwali diyas on this day of Eid. The dharna marks with deep respect the memory of Shri LC Jain who passed away on November 14. Mr. Jain was a great alternate political leader who kept democratic institutions and democracy alert to constitutional processes. He recently expressed solidarity for the dharna even while ailing in the ICU.

Nikhil Dey For the SR Abhiyan