Activists Unhappy With SC Judgment on Centre 'Curbing' MGNREGA Budget
According to activists, the "much awaited Supreme Court judgement in the Swaraj Abhiyan PIL has let down millions of NREGA workers".
New Delhi: Activists have expressed disappointment over a recent Supreme Court judgment on the timely payment of wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The judgment, delivered on May 18, was delivered in response to a petition filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan.
According to activists who are part of the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, the “much awaited Supreme Court judgement in the Swaraj Abhiyan PIL has let down millions of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) workers – the most marginalised citizens of India who need employment and social security. The court has ignored the wealth of evidence against the brazen violations of the legal entitlements of NREGA workers and has allowed the Central government to get away with a series fallacious interpretations of the employment guarantee act”.
In 2015, Swaraj Abhiyan had filed a public interest litigation asking the court to intervene on three issues related to the Act: reduction in funds for the programme by using an ‘approved labour budget’; delays in wage and compensation payment; and the lack of social audits.
By setting pre-approved labour budgets, the Centre had said that states will be unable to create work under the MGNREGA if the employment generated crosses the budget outlay. The petitioners said this went against the spirit of the Act, which says work should be created whenever there is demand. The bench, though, said it did not agree with this assessment, as “the Central Government is statutorily empowered to scrutinize and assess the funds to be released to the State Governments and Union Territory Administrations for the purposes of the Act”. The Centre also argued that it often releases funds over and above the labour budget when states need it. The court said that since no state has said they are not receiving enough funds or are facing an arbitrary cap, the petitioners were not in a position to raise that complaint.
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, however, feels that it is difficult to approve a labour budget in advance and predict how much demand there will be.
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TheWire.in, 21 May, 2018, https://thewire.in/labour/activists-unhappy-with-sc-judgment-on-centre-curbing-mgnrega-budget