People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 31

August 02, 200

MAHARASHTRA  

 

 

Gram rojgar sevaks Organise Huge Rally in Aurangabad

 

 

Rajan Kshirsagar

 

 

ON July 20, more than 2500 young and educated gram rojgar sevaks (rural employment workers) from a large number of villages, covered under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) took out a procession to the divisional commissioner office in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Coming from every corner of the Marathwada region, from nearly 60 tehsils in nine districts, they were demanding full implementation of the NREGA, better working conditions and a remuneration of Rs 5000 per month for the Gram rojgar sevaks. The procession was organised by Maharashtra Rajya Gram Rojgar Sevak Sanghatana, an organisation initiated by the state unit of the All India Agriculture Workers Union (AIAWU) and affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

Since April 2006, gram rojgar sevaks working under the NREGA have not received a single rupee as remuneration for the work they carried out for the scheme’s implementation. Nor have they been given any training. Controlled by the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Maharashtra state government has made a mockery of the act. Despite the government’s high claims about the scheme, its implementation in Maharashtra is pathetic. The state has the lowest recorded minimum wage of Rs 68 a day for agricultural workers. The Congress-NCP government is known for its intense anti-labour policies and denial of various rights to the rural poor. The region of Marathwada, which attracts a large number of migrant workers for sugarcane harvesting, brick kiln and construction work, has witnessed several struggles of agricultural workers on the demands of job cards and other issues.

 

Though some exceptional bureaucrats have shown good response in some districts, the Congress-NCP government protecting the interests of sugar barons and the construction lobby, has issued many orders which are in spirit against the NREGA act.

 

With the consistent pressure of CPI(M) and the Left parties on the UPA government, all the 33 districts of Maharashtra came under the NREGA since April 2008. But the state government had distorted NREGA by making a dubious claim of providing work for not just 100 but for 365 days under Maharashtra Gramin Rojgar Guarantee (MREGS) act, which never came into being! The government’s main intention was to deny the rural poor the right to work for at least 100 days.

 

The disastrous liberalisation and globalisation policies of the state government have left no opportunities for generating fresh employment for the youth. When NREGA/MREGS was started in all the districts, many graduates and even post graduate youth from the rural poor and labour families applied for the post of gramrojgar sevak, in the hope of earning at least a bare minimum wage for their survival and for supporting the family. But the hopes of these youth have been shattered by the anti people policies of the state government. Neither was there any work for rural poor nor any remuneration for the gramrojgar sevak !

 

With the consistent struggle for work under employment guarantee scheme in some pockets of Marathwada, the Agricultural Workers’ Union established a good rapport with gramrojgar sevaks. The state centre of AIAWU studied the issues of gramrojgar sevaks in detail and immediately decided to organise gramrojgar sevaks at the state level for strengthening the struggle for full implementation of NREGA with a broader unity of agricultural workers.

 

The gramrojgar sevaks who are well educated and who belong to rural poor families gave an enthusiastic response for forming the union and also supported the demands of agricultural workers with a radical spirit. The charter of demands is as follows:

 

1.     The entire budget on MREGS under NREGA should be spent.

2.     All job-seekers who have registered should get job cards as per the provisions of the NREGA.

3.     Gram rojgar sevaks should get appointment letters duly signed by district programme officer.

4.     They should be paid Rs 5000 per month as remuneration along with extra TA and DA and/or, meeting allowance since the date of joining in April 08.

5.     Gram rojgar sevak should be given the status of muster assistant.

6.     They should be appointed in every village of the state and should be provided good quality training.

7.     Every gram panchayat should be given a Rojgar Kaksh. Every block should have an implementation team and the zilla parishad should have a co-ordination and monitoring team. The gram rojgar sevak with higher qualifications should be promoted.

8.     A separate cadre should be formed (such as in ICDS project) for implementation of NREGA.

9.     Contradictory orders and practices conflicting with the NREGA should be withdrawn.

10. Transparency and accountability rules under NREGA should be strictly followed.

11. The pending cases of less than minimum wage payment should be immediately settled.

12. A detailed time and motion study of work and wage should be undertaken in every district for implementation of minimum wages.

13. Minimum wage of the work should be raised to at least to Rs 120 per day

14. No out sourcing of data entry or any such work on contractual basis should be permitted.

15. Gram rojgar sevak’s role of planning should be enhanced for good quality work under NREGA and rights to sign Exhibit 5

 

The district conventions have been organised in 13 districts and charter of demands were formed. A memorandum was submitted to the district authorities in Marathwada, Khandesh and South Maharashtra regions. District level dharanas and rallies were organised in nearly ten districts. The first rally took place in Kolhapur with a strong participation of nearly 600 gram rojgar sevaks from 12 tehsils on June 17, 2009 which was led by Suryaji Salunke (CITU), Rajan Kshirsagar(AIAWU) and Babasaheb Saravade (AIAWU). Another agitation was held on June 18, 2009 that was led by Shankar Pujari in the Sangli district which is a home district of the Congress cabinet minister for Employment Guarantee Scheme, Madan Patil. Rallies and dharana agitations were also conducted in Parbhani, Beed, Jalna, Osmanabad, Hingoli Jalgaon and Nandurbar district headquarters.

 

With this preparation, the MRGSS union called for a regional rally in Aurangabad. District and tehasil meetings were conducted, leaflets and posters were put up on every pachayat/block office. SMS (Marathi & English) and Email services were used extensively. The effort to reach every corner of Marathwada was made.

 

This created a big impact on the gramrojgar sevaks in the Marathwada Region. On July 14,  thousands of gramrojgar sevaks from Mahur on Andhra border to Asti on west Maharashtra reached Aurangabad city. Young, educated youth raising slogans and  demands for rural labor reached the divisional commisioner’s office. The rally was addressed by Kumar Shiralkar from AIAWU and  D L Karad from CITU. Kumar Shiralkar said the Congress - NCP government is depriving the rural labor from right to work and denying the educated gramrojgar sevaks from job opportunities. The resultant public anger should be channelised into struggles, he said. Rajan Kshirsagar, Babasaheb Sarvade, Prakash Chaudhari, Rameshwar Paul ,Kirtikumar Burande ,Sayyad Rajjak ,Maruti Khandare ,Ramprabhu Korde, Prabhakar Boddewar, Baliram Bhumbe,(AIAWU) Uddhav Bhavalkar,(CITU) Anna Sawant, Datta Dake, Madhuri Kshirsagar and Mohan Shinde were all part of the team that made best efforts for the success of the meeting.