LABOUR/MGNREGA

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1 LABOUR/MGNREGA January to December Compiled By Fr. Paul G Documentation Centre Bihar sacks 251 rural job scheme officials for graft (14) Patna: The Bihar government has sacked 251 officials for corruption in the rural job guarantee scheme, Rural Development Minister Nitish Mishra said Monday. "After a probe, 251 officials working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) have been sacked," he said. "The government has also lodged FIRs (first information reports) against 288 officials for irregularities in the implementation of the scheme," Mishra added. The state government began a probe into the allegations of corruption in the MGNREGS after a performance audit report by an NGO. The Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security said the performance audit of the MGNREGS in Bihar found that 73 percent of the Rs.8,189 crore scheme fund, spent in the state's 38 districts in six years ( ), were embezzled by the implementing authorities. "We are committed to make the implementation of the scheme more transparent to check corruption," the minister said, adding that strict action will be taken against guilty officials. The MNREGS aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. (Deccan Herald 1/1/13) MGNREGA wages not paid for seven months in Amaravati (14) A group of Delhi-based social activists and lawyers have written to the High Court of Bombay about nonpayment of wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Amaravati district of Maharashtra. The group has appealed to the court to treat the letter as a public interest petition and direct the state government to disburse all the pending claims under MGNREGA and take necessary action. According to the letter, about 150 Gond tribals of Lakatu village in Dharni tehsil built an embankment between May 12 and 18 last year under MGNREGA. But they have not received the wages since. The group visited Amaravati in the last week of December after a local non-profit apprised them of the matter. These farmers work as daily wagers and cannot wait for such a long time for their dues, says social jurist Ashok Agarwal, who was part of the group. Due to non-payment of wages, they have been forced to live like "beggars", which violates their fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 23 of the Constitution, Agarwal adds. Social worker Ram Singh Jawarkar, who hails from Amaravati and is part of the group, says the tribals had undertaken the work under the assurance that they would be paid within 15 days of making the claim. Now they feel cheated and have lost faith in the scheme. Apart from Agarwal and Jawarkar, advocate Nisha Tomar and social worker Umesh Chimote had also visited the district and received written complaints from the 150 Gond tribals. The group has sent copies of the letter to Maharashtra chief minister, state MGNREGA commissioner and district collector of Amaravati. (Down to Earth (2/1/13) Rural workers win case under NREGA (14) KOLKATA: The Party for Democratic Socialism (PDS)has won in the Court of the Authority under Payment of Wages Act, West Bengal, a case for rural workers 0on account of non-payment of wages and compensations under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Citing the court order in Kolkata on This is a collection of previously published news and views from the print as well as the electronic media, whose reference marked at the end of each news items. Department of Documentation and Library (DDL) of the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi neither claims to the veracity of the facts in the news nor subscribes to the views expressed.

2 Thursday, PDS leader Saifuddin Chowdhury said the order should serve as a precedent for payment of similar wages and compensations due to thousands of rural workers all over the state under the NREGA Act. The case had been lodged by 10 claimants of Mathurapur in South 24-Parganas. The court decreed a total payment of Rs 66,928 as wage and Rs 1,33,856 as compensation, which is twice the wage amount. Under this, every applicant would get about Rs 20,000 as wage and compensation. Chowdhury said while the payment of the wages was the responsibility of the Centre that of the compensation amount was the responsibility of the state government. According to him, many claimants had found it difficult to lodge their claims as the requisite form they had to fill up was not available in panchayat offices. "It is not the fault of the workers, it is the fault of the administration," Chowdhury argued. He said in successive years, the state government had failed to fulfill the target of 100 days guaranteed work under the NREGA. In , the national average of guaranteed work was 38 days, against this West Bengal had attained 28 days. In , the national average was about 31 days, against this West Bengal had attained 14 days. "The picture has remained unchanged under the Mamata Banerjee government, compared to the previous Left Front government," said Chowdhury. He added that nearly 6,000 such applications for payment of wage and compensation were being pursued by the PDS in court. The total number of rural workers deprived of wage and compensation all over the state would be several times more. (Times of India 4/1/13) Oppose anti-worker policies, CITU cadres told (14) VISAKHAPATNAM: The two-day Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) city conference began here on Sunday with an impressive rally by thousands of workers from Saraswati Park to RTC Complex. Various themes criticising the government policies were displayed with songs and beating of drums. Addressing a meeting at the RTC Complex, CITU former state president Ch. Narsinga Rao said that the CITU had been working for the welfare of workers in organised and unorganised sectors for the past four decades and fighting against the government policies that were affecting them. While rising prices were always a burden on the working class, increasing power tariff every month was making lives of people miserable. The direct cash transfer would dilute the Public Distribution System, Mr. Narsinga Rao alleged. FDI in multi-brand retail and disinvestment in public sector units would benefit multinationals and big industry at the cost of the poor, he said. CITU state vice-president A. Ajay Sarma said public sector was paying a heavy price owing to the policies of the government. Even as the government denied captive mines to the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, the government was going ahead with 10 per cent disinvestment to bridge budgetary deficit. (The Hindu 7/1/13) FDI: labour laws won t be relaxed for new businesses (14) GULBARGA: Union Labour and Employment Minister M. Mallikarjun Kharge has made it clear that there can be no relaxation with regard to labour laws for companies setting up businesses under FDI in retail. The new industries (coming by way of FDI) would be covered under the existing labour laws, he added. Addressing a press conference here on Monday, Mr. Kharge said no concession had been extended to industries in the special economic zones in different States. District magistrates were responsible for ensuring that the industries in SEZs in their jurisdictions implemented the labour laws, he added. To a question, Mr. Kharge said the Cabinet had given its nod to the proposed amendment to the Mining, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) and the Domestic Workers Acts. The amendments would soon be introduced in Parliament, he added. The amendment to the Domestic Workers Act proposed to extend social security schemes, including the Rashtra Swasta Bhima Yojana, protecting their rights to regulations on working hours and days of work. Mr. Kharge lamented that successive State governments that were responsible for implementing the labour laws had failed in their task. In the Indian Labour Committee meeting held on January 4, which was attended by Labour Ministers from States, issues such as effective implementation of labour laws and social security measures for labourers were discussed. At the meeting in which representatives of major trade unions also participated, he pleaded with the State governments

3 to effectively extend the RSBY to all workers, particularly the poor and those working in unorganised sectors. Mr. Kharge said that, in the meeting, it was decided that in the next Indian Labour Council (ILC) conference scheduled to be held in a couple of months, these issues would be discussed and a decision taken. Mr. Kharge said at the next ILC meeting, the Centre proposed to fix the National Floor Level Minimum Wage for workers. At present, the minimum wage was Rs. 95, which would be increased to Rs The final decision in this regard would be taken by the ILC. He said that he also proposed to extend social security schemes, particularly healthcare facilities, to workers in the unorganised sector and fix minimum pension for workers in the unorganised sector. On the demand made by the AITUC to fix the minimum wage at Rs. 10,000 a month taking into consideration inflation, Mr. Kharge said that would be difficult as there would be no unanimity among all stakeholders. (The Hindu 8/1/13) Awareness camp on MGNREGA held (14) Imphal, January : A one-day awareness camp on 'new Permissible Works Under MGNREGS' organised by State Institute of Rural Development, Manipur was held today at the Phayeng residence of Phayeng Gram Panchayat pradhan. Briefing the gathering on the subject, Institute's Faculty member Dr A Somarendra Singh informed that the Government of India had recently included six more new schemes in the NREGS programme for implementation at the gram sabha areas. Under the new scheme, to be implemented after consultations with village level resource persons, development of water bodies, construction of canals, NREGS works for BPL families and physically challenged persons, construction of earthen dams and afforestation programmes would be covered, explained the faculty member. While the new scheme lays emphasis on improvement of agricultural infrastructure, equal focus would be on development of the livestock farming sector, Dr Somarendra added. According to the Institute's Core Faculty Member O Lokendro Meitei, inspite of over 250 work programmes envisioned in the MGNREGS most of the works are not being implemented in the State. Exuding confidence that renewed focus on development of the rural areas would ensure allround development of the State, he also suggested that programme implementing agencies at the village level work with sincerity and commitment. Lokendro meitei also elaborated on 'role of elected representatives in the implementation of MGNREGS', while Dr Somarendra highlighted details of 'new permissible works under MGNREGS' and MSPP executive secretary M Sohodeva Meitei on 'role of gram sabha in the implementation of MGNREGS'. (Manipur E- Pao 9/1/13) Govt mulls extension of National Pension System.. (14) New Delhi: New Delhi: The finance ministry is considering a proposal to further extend the co-contributory Swavalamban scheme under the National Pension System by about three to five years to bolster the retirement savings of unorganised sector workers. The interim regulator Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) is understood to have pitched for a further extension on the grounds that pension is a long term product. Our calculations reveal that for a worker will have to save Rs 1,000 per month for at least 20 years to have a basic corpus of Rs 2 lakh. Pension is a long term product and Central contribution will promote savings by low income groups, a senior PFRDA official said. Membership to NPS Lite has touched 12.6 lakh while Swavalamban currently has over 7 lakh accounts. The finance ministry wants to bring around 40 lakh workers into the contributory pension scheme s fold. Financial aspects have to be still examined. Extending the scheme by three years required additional funding support from the Centre of Rs 2,065 crore, a senior official said, adding that if accepted, a decision could be announced in Budget (The Financial Express 15/1/13) Bonded labor in Brick kilns: NHRC seeks report from Odisha chief secretary (14) NEW DELHI: Taking serious note of bonded labor practice in different brick kiln in Odisha, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the states chief secretary to submit a report within four weeks. Acting on a complaint of rights organization 'India Media Centre' (IMC), the NHRC also issued

4 notice to special secretary of state home department to reply in this matter. On behalf of IMC, the petitioner Akhand alleged that two child bonded labors were killed in a major fire in Durga Brick Industries at K. Nuagaon of Ganjam District in Odisha on January 20 last year. Their parents are also working as bonded labor in the brick kiln. Two younger children were also severely injured in this fire. No action was taken by the police and local administration though the brick kiln industries was running illegally, he has alleged. He further stated before the commission that there are thousands of bonded labour working in the different brick kilns in Odisha. "These bonded labors are working with their whole family. Their children are deprived from education and health facilities. These children are employed in the kilns from very early age. The entire family has to accomplish their commitment of making 1.5 lakhs or more bricks for which they had taken advance from the labor contractor, the middlemen between the laborers and the brick kiln owners. Lesser the brick molded, lesser is the in the weekly food allowance laborers get from the owners," he alleged. "We have requested release of all these bonded labor working in brick kilns in all the 30 district of Odisha, adequate compensation to the victim's family and legal action against the accused," said Mr. Nishikant Mishra, the counsel of the petitioner. (Times of India 15/1/13) In biggest raid, prime Bandra road evicted of hawkers (14) MUMBAI: In a sudden and unprecedented eviction drive, a special squad of the Mumbai police (west region) removed 200 unauthorized hawkers encroaching on Bandra's landmark Hill Road on Tuesday afternoon. Local residents, who have been complaining about the nuisance for years, described it as perhaps the biggest raid on illegal vendors on this prime road. The street sellers laid siege to its pavements and spilled onto the road, obstructing vehicular traffic and pedestrian movement. The police action came days after elected representatives from the western suburbs, including Congress MP Priya Dutt and local MLA Baba Siddique, complained to the chief minister about the "high-handedness'' of the police action against hawkers in Vakola. Assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble was transferred after a hawker died while fleeing during a raid in Santa Cruz (E) last week. On Tuesday, local shopkeepers praised the police action and said Hill Road suddenly seemed to be much wider and free for shoppers and pedestrians. "Hill Road is Popularly known as Hell Road because of the hawkers who have political backing,'' said Anil Joseph, chairperson, Perry Road Residents' Association. Anandini Thakoor, chairperson, H(west) Federation said their efforts with Vishwas Nangre Patil, additional commissioner of police, has paid dividends. "Only 30 of the 200 hawkers are licensed. Most of them come back after the BMC vans depart. So we have to depend on police. Apart from leaving no room for local residents to walk around, these hawkers have harassed shopkeepers. A lady shopkeeper was beaten up in September and her shoulder was broken. We have been pursuing this matter for a long time," said Thakoor. Hawkers were also cleared in many parts of Bandra, at Pali Junction near Pali Presidency Hotel, Linking Road in Khar (west) and Alpha lane in Vile Parle. MNS president Raj Thackeray said that the ruling Democratic Front should not favour illegal hawkers from north India who have occupied Mumbai's pavements. "Illegal hawkers have made life miserable for Mumbaikars. There is no need to show sympathy to those who break laws," he added. (Times of India 16/1/13) Govt to enact law for ensuring rights of street vendors: Maken (14) New Delhi: A bill will be introduced in the Budget session of Parliament to grant rights to street vendors for ensuring their livelihood without any harassment by various agencies, Union Minister Ajay Maken said on Sunday. Maken told a delegation of NCP leaders led by Ramvir Singh Bidhuri that the manner in which municipal corporations of Delhi were removing rehari, patri vendors and demolishing JJ clusters was totally unconstitutional and against norms. "He said according to the norms laid down, people living in JJ clusters cannot be removed till they are provided with proper rehabilitation by the concerned civic agency," an NCP statement said. The statement quoted Maken as saying that a legislation would be introduced during the Budget session of Parliament to grant right to lakhs of rehari, patri vendors and

5 enable them to carry out their livelihood without any harassment by the various agencies. (Hindustan Times 27/1/13) Labour department to start statewide campaign for unorganized workers (14) KOLKATA: To identify and bring more and more people of marginal and backward sections of the society, engaged in different occupations, in the unorganized sector in the state before the panchayat elections to bring them under the government's registered workers list so that they can avail all the beneficial government schemes, the labour department is planning to start a statewide campaign from February where mobile vans will be brought out from the district magistrates office in all the districts and such workers will be identified and registered on spot. At present there are about one crore workers in the unorganized sector in the state. Senior labour department officials said that the social security fortnight programme that the department has been organizing since January 1 in areas of Kharagpur, Ghatal, the Jangalmahal districts of Bankura and Purulia, Mahestala, Budge Budge, Barasat, Asansol and Durgapur to popularize various social security schemes for the unorganized sector has been very successful. "There are still many workers who have not registered themselves under these welfare schemes under the government and thus they are not receiving the benefits. A plan is on that on January 26, a mobile van will come out from the DMs offices in the districts that will identify and give on spot registration to the workers with passbooks so that they can avail the benefits of the welfare schemes that the government is providing," an official said. Several workers are already started getting benefit under the State Assisted scheme of Provident Fund for Unorganized Workers (SASPFUW). About 10 lakh unorganized sector workers have been registered under the scheme in the last one and half years, officials said. The labour department also recently organized a three day camp infront of Writers' Buildings where about 500 workers were registered. The government also sanctioned crores under the social security fortnight programme. According to government figures, only Rs 2 crore was spent from 2006 to 2011 during the Left-run government's tenure and in the last one and a half years, the government has already spent more than Rs 23 crore on welfare schemes for workers engaged in construction activities. (Times of India 27/1/13) Inclusive growth will ring hollow sans universal pension, Aruna Roy tells Sonia (14) NEW DELHI: If the UPA government fails to universalise pensions for every senior citizen in the country, then it cannot claim to be a champion of inclusive growth, says National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy. In a letter to NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi, which was handed over at Monday s meeting, Ms. Roy has pointed out that the government s Rs. 200 a month pension is restricted to BPL families. For the elderly, the BPL category makes no sense. Even if they had the capacity to earn when they were younger, their physical condition in old age makes it impossible for them to support themselves. Moreover, there is no justification for not ensuring that the entire unorganised sector (94% of our workforce) is assured of some form of income in their old age. This is not a dole but recognition of their lifelong contribution to the Indian economy, said Ms. Roy. In November, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh proposed expansion of the pension net to include younger widows, single and divorced women, Dalit and tribal senior citizens and all disabled people. However, a Ministry panel still shied away from a recommendation to universalise pension to include all non-bpl senior citizens, noting that affordability is a major issue. Even without universalisation, the Ministry estimated that its proposal involved an additional cost of over Rs. 18,000 crore per year. While the Finance Ministry has not yet responded to the Rural Development Ministry s proposal, the Congress recent Jaipur declaration did include a promise that destitute, deserted and widowed women above the age of 18, as well as all vulnerable women above 60, would be provided with a decent pension. Ms. Roy s letter dismissed the concerns about adequate funding. If we are to reject this [universalisation of pensions] with an argument of insufficient resources, then every claim we make of inclusive growth, or growth with a human face, will ring hollow, her letter warned. (The Hindu 29/1/13)

6 Leveraging MGNREGS to mitigate drought distress (14) THANJAVUR: This year, the Cauvery Delta has borne the brunt of the loss of both short-term kuruvai and long-term samba crops. However, scores of agricultural workers in Thanjavur district, who would have experienced economic distress, have not been badly affected. The reason is obvious: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has provided them the muchneeded relief. Their enthusiasm for the works under the scheme is so perceptible that the workers have demanded that the period of work be extended to 250 days from 100. In Pudur panchayat of Orathanadu block in Thanjavur district where 63 out of 66 enrolled workers are women, Thamizhselvi, a 63-year-old woman, says: The MGNREGS is of great help to us at a time when there is no agricultural work. We are getting wages on the basis of the work done by us. We get Rs. 120 per day. She says that the rate should be hiked. In recognition of the district administration s handling of the situation, the Union Government has chosen Thanjavur district for leveraging MGNREGA to reduce distress due to drought. Varadarajan, Project Officer, District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) of Thanjavur, says that in , the share of women in the total workforce was 67 per cent and it went up to 82 per cent the next year. In the current year the figure is 70 per cent. Likewise, the proportion of workers belonging to the Scheduled Castes has also been on the rise 81 per cent in ; 89 per cent last year. This year, it is hovering around 83 per cent. Apart from conventional works, land development activities in lands of SC/STs have been taken up. The administration has been attaching attention to ensuring transparency and accountability at all levels of functionaries, the official says. (The Hindu 30/1/13) MGNREGS job card holders made aware of their rights (14) Kolar: We were not aware that we should not give commission to obtain our Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) job cards and also not to give our cards to others... That was how many job card holders reacted when they were educated about their rights at a workshop organised by the Union government to ensure effective implementation of the works under the scheme. Absolutely oblivious to the rights of a job cardholder, these women found themselves being exploited by the official mechanism and also by implementing agencies. These women were from Chamundeshwari women self-help group, Chedumanahalli and Venugopalaswami women self-help group in Thimmasandra of Vadaguru gram panchayat, who participated in the awareness programme. Similar programme is being held throughout the State to educate and empower women job card holders about the scheme. Till now, officials, gram panchayat, taluk panchayat, zilla panchayat officers and members were trained on the MGNREGS and about its implementation process. Despite that, the officials failed to implement the project. Besides, complaints like irregularities, pending wages, shoddy work and lack of man power dogged the project, which further hampered various works. Considering this, the Central government has now decided to educate and train job cardholders about the scheme, to ensure effective implementation of the scheme. Understanding the fact that self-help group members will play a vital role in carrying out the works under this scheme, the Central government is quietly conducting the awareness programme with the help of Abdul Nazeer Sab Institute for Rural Development, Mysore. A selected 30 women in every gram panchayat in the State have been selected to conduct training from December 12 to February 5. A majority of women undergoing training are farmers and job cardholders. Had they conducted the training earlier, it would have empowered many women to question the shoddy work in their area, said trainer K S Nagaveni. She told Deccan Herald that not many had participated in the training conducted only for officials but women self-help groups participation is 90 per cent. This shows their commitment towards the work, she added. Gangamma, who attended the workshop said, she and her fellow members of the SHG will not allow the officials to exploit them and ensure proper implementation of the project. (Deccan Herald 30/1/13)

7 Ludhiana, Fazilka to be honoured as top NREGA performers in state (14) Ludhiana: The Union Rural Development Ministry will honour Ludhiana and Fazilka for being the top performers in Punjab under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), in New Delhi on Saturday. However, a ground check presents a grim picture. When compared to other states, Ludhiana and Fazilka can only be compared to worst performing districts in states like West Bengal. Ludhiana, which used to be at the bottom of the performers' list, has bagged the number one position in Punjab this year when it came to providing jobs, followed by Fazilka. So far, Ludhiana has spent Rs crore, out of which, it has received only Rs crore from the Centre. On the other hand, the worst performing district in Bengal, Siliguri, has so far spent Rs 11 crore. In Punjab, the worst performing districts have spent not more than Rs 1 crore. While Punjab had received funds worth Rs 140 crore under MGNREGA for the current financial year, it has been able to utilise only Rs 113 crore in different districts. In West Bengal's Burdwan district alone, Rs 453 crore has been utilised in the current financial year. The total funds received by the state was around Rs 3,000 crore. Meanwhile, neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh has received funds worth Rs 324 crore and have already spent around Rs 321 crore. Haryana, on the other hand, has available funds worth Rs 336 crore, out of which, only Rs 230 crore have been spent. The funds received by a state under MGNREGA in a particular year is determined by how much funds the state had been able to utilse in the previous year. (Indian Express 2/2/13) CPI demands monthly pension to construction workers (14) NALGONDA: District CPI secretary M. Adi Reddy demanded monthly pension of Rs. 2,000 for each building worker, as the government has failed to implement any welfare measures for them. Addressing the 75th conference of the Andhra Pradesh Building and Construction Workers Union, affiliated to AITUC, here on Friday, he said that building construction works have been stopped due to steep increase in the price of cement, iron, sand and other construction materials. As a result, workers were facing hardship to meet their day-to-day expenses. Mr. Reddy expressed anguish over the delay in the issue of ID cards to the construction workers. He assured the union that the AITUC would fight relentlessly for the rights of the workers. P. Devender Reddy, general secretary of the union s district unit, demanded construction of sheds at work spot for the benefit of the workers and payment of ex-gratia of Rs. 5 lakh to those who were killed in accidents and Rs. 1 lakh in case of natural deaths. (The Hindu 3/2/13) Ludhiana s Dalit woman labourer earns praise from PM, Sonia at national NREGA meet (14) Ludhiana: 55-year-old Manjit Kaur works as a labourer in Jalaldiwal village under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). She is among 261 such workers of Ludhiana who have completed 100 days of employment under MGNREGA. Manjit, belongs to a Dalit family and working as a MGNREGA worker was her compulsion because of her poor financial condition. An illiterate, Manjit however impressed PM Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi when she addressed the NREGA workers at the national meet held on February 2. Manjit said, "From across the country, five workers were chosen to speak in this programme and I am the only one from Punjab." Manjit who at the moment is getting Rs 166 per day as daily wage while addressing the PM said, "No doubt NREGA has improved my financial condition and my kids are studying in schools and colleges, but daily wages should be at least Rs 250 a day because in open market one can easily get Rs 350 as daily wage. However, I being a woman and that too in my fifties cannot be too active. So I have no choice but to work within the village at low wages. However with inflation level, these wages need to be hiked." She also said that 100 days of employment should also be increased to 250 days of employment. Apart from being a labourer, Manjeet also farms on panchayat land. "We have to eat food for the rest days of year as well. So this farming income is a must. I have four kids and to support their education I have to work hard. My husband is also a NREGA worker." (Indian Express 5/2/13) Strike by trade unions on February 20, 21 (14)

8 BANGALORE: As many as 11 Central trade unions in the country, including those of the bank and insurance employees, will strike work on February 20 and 21 in protest against people-unfriendly policies of the Union government, Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary, All India Trade Union Congress and Member of Parliament, said here on Monday. The unions have placed 10 demands, including fixing statutory minimum wages at Rs. 10,000, stopping contract labour, bringing the unorganised sector workers under EPF Act and ESI Act, raising minimum pension to Rs. 3,000 per month and implementing labour laws pertaining to work hours, wages and work conditions, before the government. Mr. Dasgupta opposed disinvestment in public sector units and increasing foreign direct investment across sectors. Mr. Dasgupta spoke about how the government is soft towards the private sector companies. I ask the Prime Minister this: when he has all the time in the world to meet private liquor barons who are defaulting on their loans and not paying employees, why is it that he cannot spare the time to meet trade unions and their representatives. This is another question that he refused to reply, even when asked on the floor of the House. (The Hindu 6/2/13) Insurance, pension schemes announced for registered labourers by Delhi govt (14) New Delhi: A large number of registered workers under various agencies like DMRC, NBCC, PWD and CPWD were given passbooks at a function jointly organised by Delhi government and the Centre. Labour Minister Dr A K Walia on Tuesday said the Delhi government has been implementing the best social security schemes for the welfare of building and other construction workers. The Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board has been collecting cess from the contractors and construction agencies to utilise the fund for welfare of such workers. The registered workers have been receiving benefits which are much better than the benefits being given to regular employees, Walia said. Walia said the government would train construction workers in order to enhance their efficiency. He asked all building and construction workers to get registered with the Board. It is a very simple process, and any worker below the age of 60, who has worked 90 days in a year, can register himself by making a meagre payment of Rs 25. He will have to make payment of Rs 20 as subscription for subsequent years. By registering with the board, they become eligible for the benefits under various welfare schemes and under the Rashtriya Swasth Bima Yojana, which takes care of medical expenses amounting to Rs 30,000 per year for the member and dependants, Walia said. Around 1.2 lakh workers have been registered with the Board in 184 camps. They have also become eligible for a monthly pension of Rs 1,000 per month on attaining the age of 60. Dependants will also get Rs 500 per month as pension. Rs 35 crore has been disbursed under various schemes, Walia said. (Financial Express 7/2/13) Chhattisgarh s expenditure on MNREGA lowest among BJP-ruled states (14) RAIPUR: The Chhattisgarh government, which recently won the national award for implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGA) in the state, has actually spent the lowest percentage of money on the scheme from available funds among all the BJP-ruled states. While Chhattisagrh government, which ranks 23rd among all the states, was able to spend Rs crore from the available fund of Rs crore (47.88%), the other BJP rules states did better. Himachal Pradesh, which was ruled by the BJP till recently, managed to spend 57.68% of the available fund till December 31, Among other BJP-ruled states, Karnataka achieved 75.05%, Gujarat 71.01%, Madhya Pradesh 62.17%, and Jharkhand 69.07%. Even Bihar, where BJP is in alliance with the JDU, did better with 64.95% funds being spent on the implementation of the scheme. According to a report released by the rural development ministry on MNREGA earlier this month, Chhattisgarh was however among the few states that was able to generate more jobs under the scheme. The report reveals that the overall generation of employment under the scheme had declined by almost 25% over the first three years of the UPA II government. The report also reveals that the performance of the state, in terms of generating employment for dalits (SC), was poor as only 9.80% of the qualifying dalit population got jobs under the scheme. While Gujarat was worse with only 9.18% dalits getting jobs under the scheme,

9 the other BJP states HP (29.78%), Karnataka (16.87%), Bihar (24.09), Jharkhand (12.41%) and MP (19.31%) did better. However, compared to other BJP states, participation of women in Chhattisgarh was higher with a figure of 47.20%. Only Himachal with a participation of 61.30% was ahead of Chhattisgarh. (Times of India 8/2/13) Works connected with Railways may be brought under rural jobs scheme (14) New Delhi: The Rural Development Ministry may soon notify some works connected with the Railways such as afforestation and construction of approach road for crossings under its rural jobs scheme. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said his Ministry can agree with some of the suggestions made by Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in this regard. Last week, Bansal had sought co-operation of the Rural Development Ministry informing that a number of Railway projects require unskilled labour force and many of these works can be undertaken in remote rural areas under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). A meeting of Rural Development Ministry officials chaired by Ramesh on Tuesday examined Bansal s proposal and agreed with most of his suggestions. Works such as construction of embankments, developing water ways, constructing pathways, clearing vegetation growth, afforestation and construction of approach roads for railway crossings can be included under the MGNREGA, Ramesh said. He, however, said that no mechanical work such as maintenance of railway track could be included in the job scheme. In his communication to Ramesh, Bansal had said that deployment of rural population in schemes under MGNREGA is quite similar to the requirements of Railways for such specified works. He had suggested that area and project identification can be undertaken jointly at the level of district magistrates and Railway officers. Thereafter, programme officers concerned such as BDOs of the State Governments can deploy the rural labour force for these identified works under the supervision of Railway officials. This arrangement would not only open up more options for the gainful employment of the rural population but also greatly help Railways expedite its ongoing projects, Bansal said. (Business Line 12/2/13) Rural employment guarantee scheme may have adverse impact: Study (14) Hyderabad, Feb 13 : The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, enacted in 2005, may be destroying enterprise in rural areas and creating an army of unskilled labourers unfit for employment elsewhere, finds a new study. The study, undertaken in 100 villages of Medak district in Andhra Pradesh and funded by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP) of the World Bank and Ford Foundation revealed that casual labour, which the rural employment guarantee scheme is creating, may deter long-term growth. While describing MGNREGA as a good scheme to put money into the hands of the very poor in the short run, the study advocated the need to implement it in a way that does not hamper enterprise. It found that the higher wages under the Act had increased the cost of labour for many enterprises, including agriculture. The conclusions were reached after a three-year-long Ultra Poor Programme (UPP) failed to show any impact in India, while similar pilot projects in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Haiti, Peru, Ethiopia, Yemen, Ghana and Honduras funded by the same organisations yielded good results. Under the UPP, aimed at lifting ultra poor households out of extreme poverty, USD 357 (about Rs.18,000) was spent on each of the 3,485 ultra poor members. Shamika Ravi, an assistant professor in economics and public policy at the Indian School of Business (ISB) Wednesday shared with the media the outcome of the first complete evaluation study worldwide. The NGO wing of Swayam Krishi Sangam implemented the scheme, under which targeted individuals chose micro enterprises like buffalo, goat or sheep rearing, and poultry farms, telephone booths, tailoring shops, grocery shop, tea stalls and horticulture nurseries. The people chosen for such enterprises were offered all services, including training and stipend to meet the expenses. "After three years we found that there is no net impact in terms of income, consumption and asset accumulation. What was worse, more than half of the people to whom such assistance was offered had sold their assets and gone back to casual labour under the government scheme," she said. "Enterprise was not giving them anything over and above daily

10 wages. Running an enterprise is not profitable anymore," Ravi added. The implementation of the UPP started in 2007, around the same time when NREGS was launched; although the act was passed in 2005, it was implemented two years later. National Sample Survey data also shows that between and , real rural wages increased 27 percent across the country while in Andhra Pradesh, where NREGS implementation is far better, the increase is 38 percent. "Doing casual labour can't be the way. People eventually want regular income," Ravi said, suggesting that NREGS be implemented in a way which allows enterprise to thrive. Terming NREGS a political and not an economic decision, she, however, said the programme should continue as India has a very large number of very poor people. "The problem is when it gets too political. There is too much upward pressure to increase number of working days and the wages, especially before elections," she said, and suggested that work under the programme should be restricted to 100 days a year so that rural poor who don't get work during the summer are provided employment. (New Kerala 13/2/13) MGNREGA to help Railways in civil works (14) New Delhi: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will now help ease the economic burden of the railways by taking up its small civil works like construction of approach roads, developing waterways and afforestation efforts. The ministry is now busy preparing the list of works it can request the MGNREGA to complete. This working arrangement with the rural development ministry has come following the acceptance of Union Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal s request to Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. Ramesh in a letter last week to Bansal accepted his proposal with the rider that railways will have to follow the procedures entailed in the legislation that any work proposal will have to be sanctioned by the gram sabha. Ramesh, in his letter, has said that the railways will identify the work and submit it to the district programme co-ordinator for passing them on to the gram panchayats. Panchayats will place it before the gram sabha for its inclusion in the annual budget. The railway engineers could later assist the gram panchayat in developing estimates and training the workers and also ensure quality of work. The rail ministry will appoint a person to co-ordinate the new working arrangement with the rural development ministry. (Deccan Herald 19/2/13) Higher growth and flexible labour laws will do more for workers' welfare (14) The rejection of the prime minister's appeal to call off the countrywide strike, called by the major trade unions on February 20 and 21, is unwarranted and deplorable. A general strike will inflict big losses on the economy, already reeling under the impact of a severe slowdown, besides causing inconvenience to the general public. It would suspend emergency health services and rob millions of workers in the unorganised sector the opportunity of earning the daily wages on which they subsist. The trade unions' demands â stretching from measures to contain price rise, ensure employment generation, strict enforcement of labour laws, universal social security for all workers, stoppage of disinvestment, abolition of contract labour, removal of ceilings on bonus payments, increasing provident fund and gratuity benefits, compulsory registration of all trade unions and assured pension â are not only wide-ranging but also quite often mutually contradictory. Workers' welfare is best served by high growth, which will propel faster employment generation and higher wages. Trade unions should learn lessons from the second half of the last decade when higher growth reduced unemployment levels, more than doubled the rate of growth of real wages in the organised manufacturing sector and raised growth of rural real wages almost sixfold. High growth will happen only if government gets out of business, boosts private sector investments and introduces flexible labour policies to encourage organised sector employment. Current legislations like the Factories Act and Industrial Disputes Act are archaic and need to be replaced with more workable regulations. Rules that reduce proliferation of trade unions would also help. High growth and flexible labour laws will do more for workers than any general strike. (Times of India 19/2/13) Two-day strike from today to hit life across country (14)

11 NEW DELHI: Despite the Union government s last-ditch dissuasive attempt, the 11 central trade unions on Tuesday made elaborate countrywide arrangements to launch a two-day general strike from Wednesday. The strike is meant to press the unions 10-point charter of demands such as control of inflation and price rise, adequate social security for the unorganised sector workers and fixing of minimum wage at Rs.10,000 a month. The strike is likely to have its impact on the functioning of banks (including the Reserve Bank of India), port and dock works, public transport such as autos, taxis and government/private buses, insurance firms, power sector companies, coal and oil industries, post and telecom sector, offices of the State/Central governments, industrial sectors, and State/Central government undertakings. As various chambers of commerce and industries federations feared that loss to the economy during the strike could be around Rs.20,000 crore, president of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), labour wing of the ruling Congress, G. Sanjeeva Reddy told The Hindu that the unions had no option but go on strike after giving a long rope to the government. Even during the talks held by Central ministers A.K. Antony, Sharad Pawar and Mallikarjun Kharge with the unions here on Monday, there was no concrete formula to meet the unions demands. They, instead, asked the unions to postpone the strike first and said the demands could be talked out later. But we said no, Mr. Reddy said. CPI MP and AITUC general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta felt sorry for the inconvenience the strike might cause to people. But what else we can do to take up the social cause as this government is not listening and is very insensitive to the sufferings of the masses and the working class, he said. (The Hindu 20/2/13) Govt Clears Proposal for Amending Minimum Wages Act (14) New Delhi: The government today cleared a proposal to make the minimum wages announced by the Centre for workers in unorganised sector statutory for all states so as to bring parity in wages paid. At present the national floor level minimum wage is Rs 115 per day but since it is not binding on state governments and employers, the Centre merely advises the states to raise the wages so that they are on par with the national floor level. The Union Cabinet, which met here today, cleared the proposal to bring in amendment to the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 for incorporating the statutory provision. Sources said there are as many as 15 states at present are paying workers less than the national floor level minimum wage. Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Chattishgarh are among the states where the minimum wages paid are less than national floor level minimum wages. The Labour and Employment Ministry had taken the proposal to the Cabinet as early as in 2009, but because of differences it was referred to a committee of secretaries. Sources said Agriculture Ministry had reservations about putting in place a legally enforceable minimum wage, arguing that it would be difficult in enforcing it and that it would put additional financial burden on states. Besides, fears were expressed that higher wage could entice labour away from farming and plantation, where daily wages are low. The CoS had finally cleared the proposal in August last year following which it was put before the state labour ministers' conference in September. (Outlook 21/2/13) Gogoi directs implementation of social security schemes (14) Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday directed the state's Health and Family Welfare, Labour and Employment and Social Welfare departments to implement the social security schemes expeditiously. The Chief Minister directed the officials to implement social security schemes like health insurance to below poverty line workers, building and other construction workers, street vendors, MGNREGA workers, rag pickers, auto rickshaw-taxi drivers, old age/widow pension etc must be implemented expeditiously by the concerned departments. Gogoi further directed the Health and Family Welfare and Education Departments to prepare for the introduction of bills related to setting up of a Women University and ban on sale of smokeless tobacco including gutkha, in the coming budget session of the Assam Legislative Assembly in March, official sources said. (Zee news 22/2/13)

12 Call to ensure job security for workers (14) THENI: Around 2,000 members of Anna Thozhil Peravai (ATP) staged a demonstration in front of the Canara Bank on the Madurai Road near the Central Bus Stand here on Friday demanding social security to workers in the unorganised sectors. They also appealed to the government to create a corpus for the same. Addressing the gathering, ATP-Handloom Weavers Wing State secretary L. Ravichandran said that the Centre had failed in protecting the interests of workers. Amendments should be made in the labour policies to ensure job security to workers. The minimum wage should be fixed at Rs.10,000 a month for the workers. The proposal to privatise public sector companies should be dropped immediately as it would leave employees in the lurch, he said. Former MP SPM Syed Khan and former MLA R.D. Ganesan also appealed to the Central government to abolish contract labour system in the Indian Railways and regularise the employment of contract workers on its roll. A total of 650 ATP members staged a demonstration in front of the Head Post Office in Dindigul the same day, condemning sharp rise in prices of petrol and diesel and essential commodities. MLAs K.S.N. Vengugopalu and R. Palanisamy among others spoke. The Sub-Collector s Office Road and Post Office Road were closed for traffic during the protest. The trade union wing of the ruling AIADMK on Friday staged a demonstration, protesting against the anti-people policies of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for being a party to it. ATP members, led by its State vicepresident K. Singaravelu, took part in the agitation and raised slogans against the Centre and the DMK. Former Minister A. Anwar Raja charged the UPA government of failing to protect the interests of the people, by increasing the prices of petrol and diesel and allowing foreign direct investment in retail trade. He said that the DMK, being a constituent of the UPA government was equally responsible for ignoring the interests of the people. As the DMK bungled on the Cauvery issue, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had to wage a protracted legal battle to get the final award of the Cauvery water disputes tribunal notified in the gazette, he said. District secretary K.C.Animuthu, Peravai district secretary V. Prakasam and Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation Karaikudi region union vice-president S. Tamizhselvam, among others, were present. Hundreds of AIADMK cadre and Anna Thozhir Sangam took part in a demonstration against the Centre s wrong economic policies that led to increase in prices of essential commodities. The agitation was led by State functionary of Anna Thozhir Sanga Peravai S.C. Ramalingam. The agitators said that the wrong economic policies of the Centre and its decision to allow the oil companies to fix the prices of petrol and diesel led to the increase in price of essential commodities. Party MLAs R.B. Udhayakumar and Gopalsamy took part in the protest. Labour wing district secretary K.K. Pandian and president C. Perumalsamy participated. (The Hindu 23/2/13) PIL challenges Constitutional validity of Section 6 of MGNREGA (14) MADURAI: A public interest litigation petition has been filed in the Madras High Court Bench here to declare as unconstitutional Section 6 of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005 which empowers the Centre to fix wages for the employees without being bound by any provision of the Minimum Wages Act R. Gandhi, a lawyer practising in the High Court Bench, had filed the petition. He claimed that Section 6 of the MGNREGA was ultra vires Articles 14 (State shall not deny any person equal protection of laws), 16 (equality of opportunity in matters of public employment) and 23 (prohibition of traffic in human beings and forced labour) of the Constitution. According to the petitioner, the Parliament enacted MGNREGA to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed employment in a year to one member of every household in rural areas. Those employed under the Act were provided with unskilled manual work such as desilting water bodies, strengthening the bunds around them and raising roadside plantations. Though the legislation was enacted with a laudable object, it was not right to have included Section 6 which provides unfettered powers to the Centre fix a wage that could even be lesser than what was prescribed under the Minimum Wages Act, the petitioner said. The only condition imposed under Section 6 was that the wage fixed by the Centre should not be less than Rs. 60 a day. Wondering how someone could be paid less than the minimum wages prescribed