Thousands of workers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act on Thursday tried to file a first information report against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha collective said in a press release. The collective said the attempt was made on occasion of National Day of Action to protest against the “blatant violation of law by the central government in making NREGA payments”.

Workers from 50 districts in nine states – Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat – protested and tried to lodge the FIR at nearly 150 police stations. “The last five years have witnessed deliberate undermining of the Act, by allocating insufficient funds, not meeting the fund demand on time, delays in wage payments and thereby suppressing work demand,” the collective said.

A photo of MNREGA workers protesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A photo of MNREGA workers protesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha said at least 88,000 crore should have been allotted towards the programme in the last five years. “However, insufficient funds have repeatedly resulted in holding back of payments of wages and demand not being met in critical periods of the year,” it said. This, the collective said, has caused much hardship to workers.

The collective accused Modi of making false promises to make workers perform their jobs, cheating them of their wages and violating the MNREGA Act, “with intent to cause harm to the workers and their families”. The group demanded that the wrongdoer be arrested immediately.

The press release said that no fund transfer orders were processed between October 2018 and February 1, 2019 in many states, because funds for NREGA were unavailable. A letter was sent to Minister of Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar, in which the collective demanded that Rs 25,000 crore be released to fund NREGA work till June 2019.

The collective said the government released Rs 6,084 crore due to pressure and criticism from MGNREGA workers, citizen campaigns, and MPs. However, Rs 5,745 of this will be spent in clearing pending liabilities, it added. The collective said little funds will then be left to fulfil demands between January and March this year.

“It is ironic that a government which seems to have plenty of money to fund bullet trains and to compensate banks for non-performing assets of corporates who looted the banks, has no money to pay workers who have done their fair share of work and are now awaiting their wages,” the press release added.