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Aruna Roy And Nikhil Dey Move SC For Payment of Wages to MNREGA Workers, Temporary Job Cards To Migrants [Read Petition]

Radhika Roy
4 April 2020 8:34 AM GMT
Aruna Roy And Nikhil Dey Move SC For Payment of Wages to MNREGA Workers, Temporary Job Cards To Migrants [Read Petition]
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A petition has been filed before the Supreme Court of India by activists Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey for issuance of uniform guidelines to all States/Union Territories to ensure that all active and registered job card holders under the MGNREGA Act are deemed to be at work, and are accordingly paid full wages at the earliest.

The plea, filed by Advocate Prashant Bhushan on behalf of the activists, seeks for the protection of the fundamental rights to health and livelihood guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India of over 7.6 crore active job card holders under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA Act).

The issue highlighted in the petition stems from the order dated 24.03.2020 issued under Section 6 and Section 10 of the National Disaster Management Act, 2005, which has virtually placed the entire country under a National Lockdown in wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with exceptions reserved for essential services/goods.

It is noted in the plea that the Consolidated Guidelines of 28.03.2020, issued under the 24th March order, make no exception for works performed under the MGNREGA Act. However, in violation of the binding order/guidelines, Ministry of Rural Development has directed State Governments to continue with MGNREGA works wherever possible, thereby putting at risk the health/lives of the workers.

There is a violation of Article 14 as, being largely construction work which entails passing of material from one person to another, it renders social distancing impossible to observe. Additionally, as COVID-19 is now present in almost all districts of the country, it becomes a serious health hazard for the vulnerable sections of society who are desperate to find work/wages.

The livelihood of the MGNREGA workers is also at risk as it is not possible to any NREGA work open under lockdown conditions; transport has only been restricted to movement of essential services/goods.

Furthermore, directions for full payment of wages for all active and registered job card holders under the MGNREGA Act would also be in consonance with the directions dated 20.03.2020 issued by the Ministry of Labour as per which all Public/Private establishments and all Chief Secretaries of States have been directed that "during the Coronavirus crisis all workers will deemed to be on duty, even if they are absent from work and should be paid full wages". The 29th March order of the National Disaster Management Authority had also directed all employers to make payments of wages of their workers on the due date without any deductions.

Therefore, the plea goes on to state that MGNREGA being a programme that is meant to be a lifeline for rural works during distressing circumstances, it would be unfair to not enable the provisions under the Act to provide support that it is designed to give when workers are facing country's worst challenge of unemployment and limited access to money and food grains.

The prayers sought for in the petition are as follows:

1. Issuance of a writ of mandamus to Respondents to deem all active MGNREGA registered households as on duty for the entire duration of the lockdown period starting from 24.03.2020 and pay their full wage on a time rate basis accordingly.

2. Issuance of a writ of mandamus to the Respondents to issue individual temporary job cards within 15 days to all migrants who have returned from cities to their native villages.

3. Issuance of a writ of mandamus to the Respondents to draw up interim guidelines, and/or an amended scheme under Section 4 of the Act, and appropriately amend the schedule of works under Schedule 1 of the Act for implementing MGNREGA during the FY 2020-2021 once the lockdown period is over, to respond to this crisis in a sustainable manner in view of the lasting threat of waves of the virus.

4. Issuance of writ of mandamus to the Respondents to increase the entitlement of households from 100 days of work to 200 days per household to support rural livelihoods during the emerging economic crisis.

The petition is likely to be listed on 7th of April, 2020.
[Read Petition]

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