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200 days' jobs demanded for Sahariya tribals

Sunny Sebastian

Social activists write to Gehlot


‘No ceiling of work days under MGNREGS'

Andhra has given more work days for Chenchu tribals


JAIPUR: Social activists have asked Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to provide 200 days' guaranteed employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to Sahariya tribals in Baran district of the State. Nothing in the Act suggested that 100 days' work was a “ceiling” as Sections 3(1) and 3(4) of the legislation, seen together, indicated that the Centre and the State Government could extend the number of days of employment to every adult member, they said.

Writing to Mr. Gehlot in the context of the recent freeing of bonded labour from among the Sahariyas in Baran, the activists of Suchana Evum Rozgar Abhiyan (Campaign for Information and Employment) and Jagruti Mahila Samiti, Baran, they said the Government could do it by providing a job card to each adult member, instead of to each household, to ensure at least 200 days of work a year.

Rehabilitation

“We deeply appreciate the immediate action you have taken to ensure the dignity and security of Sahariya bonded labourers. As a next step, we would like to bring to your attention their urgent rehabilitation needs for securing their economic independence,” said Nikhil Dey, Renuka Pamecha, Moti Lal, Mamta Bai and Gyarasi Bai, in a letter. “Bonded labour, as the recent revelations in Baran district in Rajasthan have reaffirmed, is rooted in economic dependence and debt.”

The activists said in the likelihood of more cases of bonded labour coming up in future with the tribals mustering courage to speak up and leave their landlords, it was for the Government to ensure them a dignified livelihood and economic sustenance.

Citing the case of Andhra Pradesh, the activists told Mr. Gehlot that in the rehabilitation of Chenchu tribals the Government there provides them unlimited days of work under MGNREGS. In 2009, almost 200 Chinch tribals from three blocks of Lingal, Balmoor and Amrabad -- who were working as bonded labour at various irrigation projects -- were freed by the State's positive intervention and re-habilitated in this manner. “What is possible in AP under MGNREGS for bonded labourers should be possible in Rajasthan or any other State,” they asserted.

The district administration in Andhra Pradesh provided the freed bonded labour families with MGNREGS job cards and account passbooks on a priority basis. “Each family was given unlimited number of days of work under MGNREGS to ensure that they would not get back into a debt trap which would lead them into bondage again. Since 2009 these tribal families have continued to work on MGNREGS worksites and many have managed to come out of debt,” they noted.

Seeking positive action from Mr. Gehlot, who is to present the State Budget for 2011-12 this coming Wednesday, the activists said only Rs.32 crore was spent in Baran district in 2010-11 out of a total allocation of Rs.72 crore under MGNREGS. “Using a small proportion of this for providing an additional 100 days of work to Sahariya families in the district could go a long way in ensuring their economic independence,” they pointed out.

The Scheduled Tribe population in Kishanganj and Shahabad tehsils of Baran – where Sahariyas are concentrated – is 83,228. Around 19,000 job cards have been issued to these families in the blocks. Only Rs.8 crore has been spent in 2010-11 under MGNREGS in these two blocks for all workers (tribal and non-tribal). “Even if all 19,000 families demand an extra 100 days of work, this still works out to an additional demand of only Rs.19 crore – much less than what is available, and lying unused under MGNREGS for the district,” the activists told the Chief Minister.

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