New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to list an application mentioned urgently by Advocate Prashant Bhushan highlighting a “grave crisis” concerning a number of rural poor who were not getting their wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) even as the COVID-19 pandemic had driven them to the brink of desperation.
Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana agreed to list the case after Mr. Bhushan and advocate Cheryl D’Souza, appearing for Swaraj Abhiyan, requested a hearing as soon as possible.
Prashant Bhushan said that State governments were facing a shortage of ₹9,682 crores as of November 26, 2021. He said 100% of the funds allocated under the scheme for the year had already been exhausted by the locals.
MGNREGA wages due to the poor were piling up with negative impact in most States.
Panic Situation Due to Covid
“The COVID pandemic has caused acute rural distress shooting up demand for MGNREGA work across the country,” the application said.
The plea said the “real demand for work from registered job cardholders is not being accurately registered in the system, denying job cardholders their statutory right to employment or, failing which, ‘unemployment allowance’ “.
Taking into account the current distress, the plea urged the court to urgently direct the government to provide 50 additional days of employment under MGNREGA to each household.
The application further sought the accurate registration of demand for work on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) website and the automatic calculation and payment of unemployment allowance at one-fourth of the wage rate.
The plea also sought a direction to the government to calculate and pay for the delay in payment of wages to workers.
The court is hearing a case related to the suboptimum and irregular implementation of the MGNREGA and the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), especially during drought and natural calamities.
The Supreme Court had earlier directed the government, through judgments, to immediately ensure payment of wages under the MGNREGA within 15 days as stipulated under the law as well as to ensure that no one deserving of accessing food grains under NFSA was prevented from doing so.