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Dying slow death, inflation-adjusted NAREGA budget allocation for 2024-25 down by 5%

Counterview Desk 

Demanding employment guarantee for all, the advocacy group NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has regretted that today the rural jobs scheme “is dying a slow death- complete denial, forced implementation of anti-worker measures, and a complete lack of adequately functioning labour welfare boards.
Stating that in the last few years, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act “has been violated through unmet demand for work, payment delays, and non-payment of wages for work done”, it said, the net gain for the scheme in the 2024 Interim Budget is “zero”. BE for FY 24-25 “remains the same as RE for FY 23-24.” 
Worse, adjusted against inflation, the actual allocation has gone down by 5%, it noted in a media communique.

Text:

The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha extends revolutionary greetings to all the workers of India on the day that led to the birth of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act after years of people’s struggle. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has completed 19 years since its enactment. This progressive law aimed to ensure the right to work in the country, establish social and economic justice, end distressed migration, and eradicate poverty.
However, today NREGA is dying a slow death -- complete denial, forced implementation of anti-worker measures, and a complete lack of adequately functioning labour welfare boards. In the last few years, the act has been violated through unmet demand for work, payment delays, and non-payment of wages for work done.
In FY 22-23, the employment programme faced a triple attack by the compulsive imposition of the National Mobile Monitoring System, an Aadhar-based Payment System, and inadequate budgetary allocation. Since then over 7.6 crore jobcards have been deleted and we saw a hike of 273% in jobcard deletions. The pending liabilities for the current year are over 11,000 crores and around 20% of the budgetary allocations goes into clearing the previous year arrears. This leads to a vicious cycle of delayed payments & systematic suppression in demand. 
The situation is adverse for West Bengal, as the centre has withheld the funds for 2 years now resulting in a complete stoppage of work and non-payment of wages for work done. The continuing denial of the right to work under NREGA by the Central government is occurring at a time when the country is going through a depressing scenario of unemployment, stagnation of wages in real terms, poor working conditions for millions of workers, and extreme inadequacy of job opportunities, especially among the youth and women.
This is visible in various recent examples - the recruitment camps organised by the state governments in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to send thousands of workers to Israel indicate the dismal situation of employment in India. The people in these recruitment camps are left with no option other than to risk their lives by going into the warzone in Israel with the hope of getting a job. 
Building on values and objectives of NREGA, India requires an Urban Employment Guarantee Act to address livelihood crisis in urban areas
This is the only viable choice available for them as opposed to dying in their own country without any work and livelihood. It is disgraceful that even after seventy-six years of independence, we have failed to ensure guaranteed employment for every citizen of this country. It is also unfortunate that the Indian Government has not stood up strongly against the Israeli Government’s genocidal acts towards the Palestinian people for the last 4 months. The agreement with the Israeli government to send workers from India should have been cancelled on these humanitarian grounds by the Indian Government.
The right to dignified work and wages should be guaranteed to every individual in India. There is a crucial need to strengthen the decentralised and democratic nature of NREGA. Moreover, building on the values and objectives of NREGA, this country requires the establishment of an Urban Employment Guarantee Act to address the livelihood crisis in the urban areas too.
As we approach the General Election in the coming months, we appeal to all political parties to include in their manifestos the strengthening of NREGA and the introduction of the Urban Employment Guarantee Act.
The net gain in the 2024 Interim Budget is zero. BE for FY 24-25 remains the same as RE for FY 23-24. However to meet the employment guarantee for all registered workers minimum of 2.71 lakh crore is required. Though the Union government claims that budget allocation is a continuous process and does not act as a constraint to implementation, ground realities suggest otherwise and Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) continues to neglect them. This shortfall in the budget continues to violate the guaranteed right to work under NREGA.

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