New Delhi [India], April 20 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to list for hearing a plea seeking directions to redress the situation of workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MNREGA) in the country claiming that their pending wages are piling up along with negative balances in funds of most of the states.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana agreed to list the matter after advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for petitioner NGO Swaraj Abhiyan mentioned the matter for urgent listing.
Bhushan asked the bench to list the matter for hearing as MGNREGA workers are not getting paid.
"I will list it," said the CJI.
Swaraj Abhiyan had filed an application seeking direction from the Central government to ensure that all pending wage, material and administrative payments pending is cleared within 30 days.
The plea said crores of workers were in a crisis as funds-starved states had run up wage dues of Rs 9,682 crore under the Centre's flagship 100-day job scheme MGNREGA which has witnessed an increase in beneficiaries because of the pandemic.
It said as of November 26, 2021, the state governments were facing cumulative wage dues of Rs 9,682 crore and 100 per cent of the funds allocated for the financial year had been exhausted.
The plea claimed that wage dues were piling up under the MNREGA as most states had not received adequate funds under the scheme.
The shortage of funds that was being cited was a gross violation of the law, added the plea.
The NGO sought urgent directions from the court to provide 50 additional days of employment a year under the MGNREGA to each household, accurately allow registration of demand for work directly on the NREGA Soft website and issue dated receipts, automatically calculate and pay unemployment allowance at 1/4th the wage rate, and pay for delay in disbursal of wages to workers.
The plea said that the lockdown and the subsequent closure of industries caused massive unemployment in urban areas and this led to large-scale reverse migration to the rural areas and demand for work under the NREGA, putting strain on the village economy.
It said according to government estimates, more than 32 lakh migrants returned to six states -- Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. Some other estimates suggested that the figure was 45 lakh, the NGO submitted.
It cited a top court judgment in 2016 on Swaraj Abhiyan's petition that non-payment of NREGA wages was a violation of Article 23 of the Constitution, which deals with forced labour and prohibition of trafficking.
In its verdict, the apex court had directed the Centre to ensure the payment of wages under the MGNREGA within 15 days and see to it that no beneficiary was deprived of food grains under the National Food Security Act. (ANI)