Ranchi, June 6: Prodded by Raj Bhavan to take concrete steps to redress the grievances of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) workers, the court of the assistant labour commissioner today directed the Khunti district administration to compensate villagers whose wages had been inordinately delayed.
In his order, Ebraul Haque said that NREGS workers of nine villages under Khunti and Murhu blocks were to be paid Rs 2,000 each by the administration for wage delay. This is the first time such a measure has been taken to address the woes of NREGS workers in the state.
The assistant labour commissioner held his court in Khunti, some 35km from the state capital, in the presence of noted economist Jean Dréze, who has conducted an extensive survey of projects and payment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in Khunti over the past month. State NREGS commissioner K.K. Soan and Khunti deputy commissioner Puja Singhal Purwar were also present.
Yesterday, G. Krishnan, the adviser to Governor Syed Sibtey Razi, had issued an order saying that an officer of the rank of assistant labour commissioner would hold court in Khunti from Saturday to hear and solve cases of delay in wage payment. Today, nine petitions from as many villages under Indipiri, Dimda, Shiladon, Tirla and Birhu gram panchayats came up for hearing in Haques court. Each petition was signed by several workers of NREGA projects.
It is sad that so many people were deprived of their pay for several weeks, said Soan, adding that Haques order would bring relief to well over 400 workers in all the nine villages. The compensation has been ordered under Payment of Wages Act, 1936. Haque is expected to take up four more cases on Monday.
Meanwhile, acting on Krishnans order, deputy development commissioner Virendra Kumar Singh Madhup has imposed a penalty of Rs 1,000 each on three block programme officers — two from Murhu and one from Khunti — and seven others for holding back NREGS payment in Murhu and Khunti.
During a recent study, Dréze and his team found the situation grim in several villages of the district. The economist urged the Khunti administration to ensure timely wages, but in vain. On Thursday, he had brought the matter to the Raj Bhavans notice, prompting action.