ON MGNREGA: Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi’s speech during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha on March 31, 2022

Smt. Sonia Gandhi said that Madam Chairperson, the same Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, which was ridiculed by many a few years back, hasplayed a significant role by helping the government in providing timely assistance to crores of poor families affected by COVID and repeated lockdowns.

Yet, the budget allocated for MGNREGA is constantly being cut, weakening the legal guarantee of getting work and payment of wages on time. The budget of MGNREGA this year is 35% less than that of 2020, while unemployment is increasing continuously. Budget cuts lead to delay in payment of workers, which the Hon’ble Supreme Court has termed as ‘forced labour’. On March 26 of this year, all other states have shown negative balance in their account under the scheme, with about Rs. 5,000 crores outstanding as payments to workers.

Madam Chairperson, all the states have recently been told that their annual labour budgets will not be approved unless they fulfil the conditions related to the appointment of Lokpals and social audit. Social audit must be made effective, but workers cannot be penalized by stopping allocation of funds for the scheme, based on deficiencies in its implementation. It is unfair and inhumane. The government should find a solutionto it instead of obstructing it.

Madam Chairperson, there can be no compromise on social audit by Gram Sabha, sothrough you, I urge the Central Government that-

First, an appropriate budget should be allocated for MGNREGA;

Second, ensure that workers are paid wages within 15 days of work;

Third, the payment of compensation in case of delay in payment of wages should also be ensured legally and along with this, the annual action plans of the states should be fixed