Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Big salary hike for MPs, Re 1 for Tonk labourers

Indian Members of Parliament (MPs) have just had a huge raise in their salaries. But shockingly, people in Tonk district of Rajasthan are being paid just one rupee for a whole day's hard labour. And that too for working under the government's National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Ramphool is angry and desperate these days. To feed his family, this landless labourer had worked in April this year at a NREGA site in Gudaliya village of Tonk district. But despite working for eight hours a day in the blazing heat, Ramphool was paid just one rupee a day or his labour.

"We were promised 100 rupees a day. That is why we worked hard under NREGA. But now they are giving us only one rupee per day. With this little money, what will I eat and how can I feed my children." But it is not just Ramphool. Ninety-nine people in this village had toiled hard for 11 days to dig a check-dam under the rural employment guarantee scheme. But when it came to wages, they were paid only Rs. 11. That is one rupee for each day's labour. This, the villagers say, is an insult to their effort. "This is a fraud. We have already suffered from drought in the past three years and there's hardly anything to eat. And if we are paid just one rupee for working under NREGA, how will we take care of our family," asks one of them.

The dam constructed is now full of water, a testimony to the hard work of the villagers. While the district officials ignored the labourers' complaints, the Gehlot government has woken up to the crisis and ordered a special probe. "I've given orders to our NREGS Commissioner. Our senior officials will go to the spot and investigate this whole case. We will take action against the person who is found guilty of negligence," said Bharat Singh, Rajasthan's Panchayati Raj Minister. The ridiculously low payment makes a mockery of the employment guarantee scheme designed to combat rural poverty and hunger. All eyes are now focused on how soon and severely the Gehlot government will punish the guilty.


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