Our Dharna continues, with the call for a Black Diwali. We have Jean Dreze joining us from Ranchi. As the TOI reports from Patna:
Jean Dreze, development economist who has been influential in Indian economic policymaking, has decided to observe ‘black Diwali’ in Muzaffarpur district on Thursday in protest against non- payment of wages to 3,000 and odd MNREGA workers in six blocks of the district.
NDTV has a blow-by-blow account of our dharna, placing our battle in the larger context of the talk of culling down the NREGA significantly. Here, below is an excerpt:
One of the beneficiaries of the scheme is 60-year-old Paramshila Devi. The Rs. 20,000 she has earned in the last three years, doing various jobs under NREGA, has helped her survive after her husband’s death two years ago.
Work under the Act may be increasingly hard to come by, she says, but NREGA is still an important part of her life, and that of many others here. She says, “What other work can I do? I can’t do hard labour at this age. If it closes down, what are my options? The government has to give us work”.
We hope the state and the central governments ensure our payments are made. The NDTV article tries to provide a bipartisan view of things, but the truth of the matter is that NREGA has considerably changed the lives of many of the poor here. In our core Panchayats, we ensure 100 per cent corruption-free implementation for labour payments.
We don’t ask for extra money for our labourers, just that we be paid what is legitimately ours.