Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday urged the Central government to ensure proper budget allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) while also making payment of wages to labourers within 15 days of work.
Sonia Gandhi raised the issue in Lok Sabha, claiming that the MGNREGS budget for the current year is 35 per cent less than that of 2020 even when unemployment is continuously rising in the country.
“The MGNREGA, which was mocked by several people a few years ago, provided timely help to crores of affected poor families during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown and played a positive role in saving the government. Still, constant cuts are being made in the budgetary allocation for the MGNREGS,” the Congress interim president stated.
Lashing out at the Centre, Sonia Gandhi said the workers’ payments get delayed due to less allocation of budget for MGNREGS, adding that the Supreme Court has called this “forced labour”.
She charged that the lesser allocation to the flagship scheme amounted to the weakening of the legal guarantee of timely payment and jobs.
Further, Sonia Gandhi asserted that timely payments to labourers should be ensured legally and an annual action plan of states be determined without any delay.
“I urge Centre that proper allocation of budget be done for MGNREGA, payment of wages be ensured for labourers within 15 days of work, and in case of delay in payment compensation should be ensured legally and an annual action plan of states be determined without any delay,” the Congress interim president said.
She also said that the labourers cannot be punished by delaying their payments due to the delayed social audit and appointment of Lokpal.
“States were told that their yearly labour budget won’t be approved unless they meet conditions related to social audit and appointment of Lokpal. A social audit should be made effective but labourers can’t be punished by stopping the money for this, based on shortcomings,” Sonia Gandhi added.