On 8 August the Akhil Bhartiya MGNREGA Mazdoor Union (ABMMU) was launched by partner CADAM and PACS at an event in Patna, Bihar. The ABMMU will play a vital role in bringing together MGNREGA workers from across the state and helping them to raise issues they have with MGNREGA, advocate for change and address gaps in implementation, access, administration, information and entitlements.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a government employment scheme that guarantees 100 days of manual labour work to households that demand it.
However, as explained by Arti Verma – Bihar State Manager for PACS – there are various state-level concerns regarding the implementation of MGNREGA in Bihar: in both the last and current financial year hardly any work has been conducted under MGNREGA due to the delay in the transfer of MGNREGA budget to the state.
In addition, in the 2014/15 financial year most of the work carried out under MGNREGA in Bihar involved constructing toilets under the government’s “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean Up India Campaign). However, as only 28% of dalits have their MGNREGA entitlements, the benefits of MGNREGA are focused mainly on non-dalits and other groups who are not socially excluded.
The ABMMU has been formed by PACS partner CADAM to bring together MGNREGA workers under one body to raise their concerns and issues.
It was launched at an event in front of over 1000 ABMMU members from 23 districts of Bihar. CADAM is a part of NACDOR - the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations - and so Shri Ashok Bharti – the Chairman of NACDOR, Shri Rajesh Upadhayay - Executive Director of NACDOR, and Arti from PACS officially launched the Union.
As highlighted by Shri Bharti in his opening speech, “The time has come when the dalit and adivasis [tribal people], especially those who are engaged in the labour sector, need to be organised and united to put forward their demands and concerns.”
The objective of the ABMMU is to carry out advocacy relating to MGNREGA issues in Bihar and to see this bring about results, enabling MGNREGA beneficiaries to access their entitlements and make duty bearers accountable.
Shri Ashok Bharti – Chairman of NACDOR - addresses the ABMMU members, encouraging them to organise and unite to better advocate for their employment rights under MGNREGA.
A 10-point Charter of Demands was shared with the union members at the event and later was submitted to the Department of Rural Development, Bihar.
The highlights of the charter were to demand:
Union members are planning to demand the fulfillment of this Charter of Demands when political leaders come campaigning for votes this season (Bihar elections are coming up in October/November 2015).
The event concluded by highlighting the continued need to protest against the abnormalities going on in regard to MGNREGA and to demand policy change.
Shri Bharti urged union members at the cluster and block levels to be more vibrant and active in raising demands and issues with local government institutions. He said that this will help the ABMMU at the state level to carry out mass mobilisation and large-scale advocacy.
In addition, state presidents of NACDOR who were in attendance agreed to raise and highlight MGNREGA in their own states. They appreciated the work that has been done in Bihar and committed to form state-level MGNREGA Unions and 10-point Charters of Demand, which will help NACDOR to take up advocacy at a national-level too.