Tribals of West Singhbhum protest NREGA funds cut
Over 100 tribal villagers in rebel-hit Sonua block of Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district on Thursday shot off a letter to the Prime Minister, protesting against the reduction of MGNREGA funds in the budget announced on Wednesday.
The Union budget has allocated Rs 60,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), compared with an allocation of Rs 73,000 crore in the 2022-23 budget, which was increased to Rs 89,400 crore in the revised budget because of demand.
This decision led to several human rights activists raising apprehension that the government was working to wind up the rural job guarantee scheme which had been a mainstay of migrant workers who had returned back to their villages during the Covid pandemic in Jharkhand.
“West Singhbhum is ranked at the bottom among the 24 districts of Jharkhand. On the other hand, it is among the top districts in terms of migration of tribal workers to other big cities in search of jobs, often ending up brutalised, tortured and humiliated. Wednesday marked 17 years of implementation of the rural job guarantee scheme. But shockingly the Centre has come forward to reduce the budget allocation drastically. It speaks volumes about the intention of the central government. Protests are bound to happen,” warned Jharkhand state convener of NREGA Watch, James Herenz.
Nearly 113 rural labourers from Sonua block, which borders Sundergarh district of Odisha, held a public meeting in Porahat and Lonjo villages and discussed the reduction of the budget and termed it as an attack on MGNREGA.
Thereafter the labourers drafted a letter addressed to Narendra Modi and went to the Sonua block office under the aegis of Jharkhand NREGA Watch and NREGA Sangharsh Morcha and submitted it to the Sonua block development officer.
“The negligible budget allocated for MGNREGA in 2023- 24 has exposed the anti-worker face of the Modi government. This is the lowest budget in the last 17 years (except the first two years) in proportion to GDP. It is 33 per cent less than last year’s budget,” the letter reads (a copy of which is with The Telegraph).