NESFAS requested the Chief Minister to re-examine the scheme of Labour Department

Shillong, April 04: Dr. Melari Nongrum Executive Director, NESFAS has written a letter to the Meghalaya Chief Minister requesting him to re-examine of the Scheme of the Department of Labour, Government of Meghalaya In these extraordinary times.

Dr. Melari state that when all are shaken by this global pandemic, the steps taken by the Meghalaya government in ensuring that the daily wage labourers, who are among the most vulnerable, are given financial support to tide over these difficult times is highly commendable.

NESFAS have been trying to facilitate our farmers who are also daily wage labourers to apply for compensation of wage loss through the scheme of the Department of Labour, Government of Meghalaya.

In doing so, they have received feedback from our communities and they understand that many would not benefit from this scheme as many daily wage earners in the community have already registered with the MGNREGS.

NESFAS also mention that People do not work in a single activity for the entire year but are engaged in multiple livelihood activities to make ends meet. This is especially true of those who are registered under MGNREGS which is a seasonal employment scheme.

They work in MGNREGS for a period of 100 days and also engage in daily wage labour in other projects for the remaining 212 days approximately. This is the planting season where a lot of such workers would have been engaged in working in other people’s farms.

With the lockdown, that source of income is not available anymore. So even if they were to get the MGNREGS wages they would still be losing wages from the other avenues of work.

NESFAS also pointed out that only those who have a bank account will be supported. Many families in the villages have only one bank account which was opened for MGNREGS.

However, there other members of the family who are also engaged in daily wage labour where cash is the main mode of payment. For these families, they will stand to lose this compensation.

Even if the other members in the family have multiple bank accounts but because they are registered under the job card of the head of the household they will automatically become ineligible to get any benefits since those registered with MGNREGS are not eligible to apply.

Many households have only one single working member  who has already registered with MGNREGS. Such households will be severely impacted. Fertility rate in Meghalaya is among the highest in the country and such households will have many dependents.

The number of children in the 0-5 age category is itself almost 20% of the state’s population. Large families, indebtedness coupled with landlessness 70% of the population in Meghalaya being landless),will lead to further impoverishment.

There are newly formed households who do not have a job card but some of these members of such households are still registered under the job card of their father or mother of their previous residence.

In effect, these individuals will also be deprived. The loss of work and wages due to the lock down coupled with inability to apply for the compensation under the Department of Labour will lead the rural populace to an increasing indebtedness as they have to borrow to buy the essential products which there are reports that products are sold at a higher price in few places which violates the notice given by the Government.

In the light of these realities, NESFAS recommend the following changes: 1. Persons who are registered under MGNREGS are eligible to apply 2. The weekly income support of Rs. 1000/- be increased to at least Rs. 1500/- assuming Rs. 300/- as the figure which is still lower than minimum wage of Rs.324/- as prescribed by the Government of Meghalaya for unskilled labour.

Members in the household who do not have a bank account should be entitled for the benefits. This can be done by transferring the amount to those in the family who have a bank account or direct benefit transfer through the Rangbah Shnong.

Members of newly formed households who do not have a job card should also get the benefits by getting the name of such individuals from the Rangbah Shnong. 6. No delays in the release of the benefits intended for the beneficiaries. Price control should be strictly enforced.

The NESFAS urge your Government to re-examine the scheme of the Department of Labour in the light of these realities so that the well intended scheme will be strengthened and No One Is Left Behind said Dr. Melari Nongrum Executive Director, NESFAS.

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