Human rights groups today criticised the government for undermining the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and demanded that it should not try to amend the law.
Several activists of human rights organisations under the banner of People's Action for Employment Gurarantee deplored government's move to change the labour material ratio to 51:49 from the existing ratio of 60:40, as well as the attempt to restrict the act to one-third of all blocks.
"The Rural Development ministry officials themselves have pointed out the disastrous simpact of changing the labour material ratio from 60:40 to 51:49 citing that will result in sharp fall of 40 per cent in employment generated and will adversely affect 5 crores households.
"They also warn that this will bring in 'benami contractors' and corruption and will lead to ultimate deterioration of the people," said Nikhil Dey, an activist.
Aruna Roy, a Right to Information (RTI) activist and leader of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), said that there are reports indicating government's move to reduce MGNREGA to one-third of the blocks, which will kill the act and reduce it to a complete manipulable device and adversely affect the two-third of the country.
"With so many people depending on the MGNREGA, announcement of Union Rural Development Minister to restrict it to tribal and backward districts of the country has come as a death warrant for the Act.
"Over the last eight years the MGNREGA has served as a lifeline for the poor with 1 out of every 3 rural household having worked in the programme," Roy said.
The members of the group demanded that there should not be any scaling down in the coverage or the provisions of the MGNREGA as mandated through the law.
"Budgetary allocations should be based on generation of demand keeping with the spirit of the Act. The budget of MGNREGA should be enhanced in line with the rate of inflation and quota based rationing to states with discretionary cuts is unacceptable and illegal.
"Any proposed amendments must be done through public consultations with all relevant stakeholders," Roy said.
A letter to the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi endorsed by more than 200 hundred public figures was sent today.
"This is one of the most important laws passed unanimously by India's parliament and under no circumstances will this insidious attack on the working poor be accepted by the people of India," Roy added.