Employment guarantee act makers believe MSY can build the ground for nationwide Urban Employment Guarantee Act

The letter says, this initiative is important not only for Jharkhand but for the country as a whole, because it charts a path forward out of the present crisis and sets an example for other states to emulate. We are hoping that this experience will help to prepare the ground for a possible Urban Employment Guarantee Act

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Ranchi: India’s noted social activists, who gave India employment guarantee act, praised Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren for his initiation of Mukhyamantri Shramik Yojana (MSY), an urban employment guarantee scheme for Jharkhand. The social activists Aruna Roy, Annie Raja, James Herenj, Jean Dreze, Nikhil Dey, Jayati Ghosh, Anindita Adhikari, Rakshita Swamy, Amit Basole, Rajendran Narayanan and Nachiket Udupa wrote a letter to Jharkhand CM and while mentioning that the MSY can prepare a possible ground for Urban Employment Guarantee Act, which can be followed by other states, also put forward a road map before the CM on how to follow a transparent and consultative pre-legislation process. The concerned citizen highlighted the major points from eligibility, wage, types of works and emulation of Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) among others to incorporate in the proposed scheme.

The letter to CM Soren begins with, “We write to you as individuals who have been actively involved in campaigning for employment guarantee. We welcome the proposed launch of the “Mukhyamantri Shramik Yojna” (MSY), an urban employment guarantee scheme for Jharkhand. Such a scheme could be of great help to informal-sector workers and returning migrants in urban areas, and also create assets that improve the quality of urban life. This initiative is important not only for Jharkhand but for the country as a whole, because it charts a path forward out of the present crisis and sets an example for other states to emulate. We are hoping that this experience will help to prepare the ground for a possible Urban Employment Guarantee Act.

And further says, “Given the significance of this initiative we urge you to follow a transparent and consultative pre-legislative process to finalise guidelines for the scheme. As per the directive issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice (DO. No. 11 (35)/2013-L.1) the state government is required to publish the draft guidelines, along with requisite explanations for a minimum number of days to invite feedback from citizens. The directive also requires the state government to hold consultations and solicit feedback from citizens in general and potential beneficiaries in particular. Developing scheme guidelines informed by ground realities and experiences, will benefit the programme tremendously and will also ensure that it is implemented effectively.”

The team of experts, which helped made several important legislation to India including MNREGA, Right To Information (RTI), Right to Education (RTE) and Right To Food (RTF), suggested many important aspects needed to be in the proposed scheme. Which for our readers, we have carrying as it is:

Eligibility: The right to 100 days of urban employment should be an entitlement for each individual worker. We strongly recommend that workers whose names appear on MGNREGA job cards should not be excluded from the ambit of the urban employment guarantee, as is being suggested through news reports. Doing so will unnecessarily exclude deserving and vulnerable workers. Workers whose names appear on both MGNREGA and Mukhyamantri Shramik Yojna job cards, but are urban residents for the specified time period, should be entitled to avail of a total of 100 days of work over the year.

Wages: Wages for the new programme should be no less than the urban state minimum wage and there should be a provision to regularly revise this rate in line with cost of living changes. This is in line with the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act (1948) and successive judgements of the Supreme Court, including Sanjit Roy vs State of Rajasthan (1983). Moreover, in line with MGNREGA and the Payment of Wages Act (1936) timely payment of wages must be a legal right for the workers.

Role of the Urban Local Bodies (ULB): This scheme is a chance to truly strengthen the democratic functioning of the ULBs and realize the objective of the 74th Amendment of the Indian Constitution. ULBs should be the main implementing agencies of the programme. They should be empowered to finalize the list of works to be undertaken in a ward through participatory ward sabhas, identify eligible workers, accept demand for job cards and work, and implement works. Adequate personnel, financial resources and functions should be devolved for them to play the role. A full-time dedicated functionary at the ward level must be appointed to implement the programme, similar to a Gram Rozgar Sahayak under MGNREGA. Detailed protocols should be laid out to facilitate participatory planning of works at the ward level, thereby enabling ward residents to have a central role in deciding the works that will be undertaken in the concerned ward.

Types of works: A large variety of works that require a range of education and skills may be undertaken through this programme. These include:

● Public works such as building and maintenance of roads, footpaths, and bridges;
● Creation, rejuvenation, and monitoring of urban commons (e.g. water bodies and parks);
● Monitoring, evaluation, and surveying of air, water, and soil quality;
● Work in municipal offices, schools and health centres (for those with adequate education);
● Provisioning of care for children, elderly, specially-abled and those in correctional facilities.

Role of private contractors: Urban public works are generally carried out via private contractors. We strongly believe that the present scheme should not operate in this manner. Instead of private contractors, the ULB should be made responsible for implementing works.

Transparency and Accountability: To ensure that the implementation of the programme correspond to the needs and requirements of workers, the programme should have clear actionable provisions for mandatory disclosure of information in the public domain, time bound, independent and decentralized grievance redress and social audits.

Emulation of MGNREGA: We also recommend that workers under the MSY have rights to the following which MGNREGA workers are also entitled to:

– Right to demand work, individually and as a group, in writing or orally;
– Right to unemployment allowance, if work is not provided within 15 days;
– Right to basic worksite facilities such as drinking water, shade, creche and medical aid;
– Right to receive work within the same ward, and otherwise to a transport allowance;
– Right to receive compensation when injured at the worksite;
– Right to timely payment, and failing that, to compensation for delays.

Besides the letter, the authors also extended all support to the government on the issue.

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