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Failure to handle MGNREGA caused Jo…

Failure to handle MGNREGA caused Joshi's tranfer
Anindo Dey, TNN, Jan 20, 2011, 05.53am IST

JAIPUR: For Union minister C P Joshi the failure to handle the UPA goverment's flagship programme of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) resulted in his transition from rural development to surface transport. Joshi had not acted on a letter from Congress president Sonia Gandhi to raise MGNREGA wages and also stood in contempt of an Andhra Pradesh High Court order. Joshi was earlier seen as a trusted man and was given the task of implementing the flagship programme. But MGNREGA under Joshi not only kicked up a huge storm across the country with misappropriation of funds but the programme, which many termed as the stepping stone of the UPA's victory, was fast proving to be reason for discontent among masses. After a consensus in the National Advisory Council (NAC), Sonia Gandhi as its chairperson had forwarded a letter to the Prime Minister. The thrust of her letter was that workers under the MGNREGA need to be paid minimum wages as notified under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. The point was further underscored when she mentioned: "Workers under MGNREGS are being paid less than statutory minimum wage. This is totally unacceptable and needs to be corrected at once". In reply Joshi merely indexed the MGNREGA wages to inflation and had termed it as having addressed the issue raised in Sonia's letter to Singh. In reality the MoRD had done little. In fact the reply from the PM categorically stated that the government had decided that the MGNREGA workers would not be covered by the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act. This, despite a strong contrary opinion from the ministry of labour, among a host of others. Soon detractors, including Aruna Roy, who is a member of the NAC as well as an activists of the Mazdoor Kishan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), were quick to point out the anomaly. It was the MKSS's 43-day demonstration here at the Statue Circle that had culminated in the NAC consensus. Even after indexation of the MGNREGA wages to the Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labour (CPIAL) the wage in 10 states were less than the prevailing minimum wage, she had pointed out. That apart, the MoRD had also ignored the orders of the Andhra Pradesh High Court and has been facing contempt proceedings for not paying minimum wages to the MGNREGA workers. After these acts detractors have been pointing fingers at the UPA government itself for having strayed from its own promise in the Common Minimum Programme where it had promised to enhance the well-being of farmers, farm labour and workers, particularly those in the unorganised sector. It has also promised to provide a legal guarantee for at least 100 days of employment every year at minimum wages for at least one able-bodied person in every rural, urban poor and lower middle- class household. But in reality was undercutting even minimum wages and its own common minimum programme.

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Failure to handle MGNREGA caused Jo…

Copyright © 2011 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service