Lok Sabha

December 15, 2014

NREGA is now Nasty Ruthless Endeavour Going Anti-People: Abhishek Banerjee | Transcript

NREGA is now Nasty Ruthless Endeavour Going Anti-People: Abhishek Banerjee | Transcript

Trinamool MP and National President of TMYC, Abhishek Banerjee made his maiden speech in Lok Sabha today. During a discussion on MGNREGA, he said that NREGA is now Nasty Ruthless Endeavour Going Anti-People. He also asked the government why the funds for the project were being slashed? He asked them to consider what will happen to the livelihood of poor people in rural India.

Full transcript of his speech:

Sir, I rise here today to deliver my maiden speech on an issue that is very close to my heart. I pay my tributes to the martyrs and soldiers of the country, who have sacrificed their lives for India, our motherland. I thank the Maa, Mati, Manushof West Bengal for electing me to this august House. I thank West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for giving a young person like me the opportunity to represent the people of Diamond Harbour constituency. I offer my salaam and pronaam to the members of this House.

Sir, today I am going to speak on MGNREGA. What does this mean? NREGA stands for National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. And the MG, here, Sir, refers to Mahatma Gandhi. This scheme ensuring 100 days’ work to the rural population of India is dedicated to the Father of the Nation.

MG – Then and now

“The soul of India lives in its villages”, declared Mahatma Gandhi at the beginning of 20th century. According to the 2011 census of India, 69% of Indians live in 640,000 different villages. Mahatma Gandhi dedicated his life to the service of people. Even at the stroke of the midnight hour on 14th August, 1947 when India awoke to freedom, Gandhiji was at Noakhali – fasting against communal violence.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for communal harmony.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for non-violence.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for rural development.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for peace.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for secularism.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for the truth.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for simplicity.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for women empowerment.
• Mahatma Gandhi stood for equality and unity.

That was the era of a different Mahatma Gandhi.

Sadly, times have changed and in these difficult times, there is a ruthless, divisive MG.

• We live in the times of an MG that makes promises and doesn’t keep them.
• This MG spends billions of dollars on advertising campaigns.
• This MG goes on eight foreign trips in six months.
• This MG puts wardrobe before welfare.
• This MG supports crony capitalism.

This MG is the Modi Government.

The government has used the rims of Mahatma Gandhi’s spectacles as the logo of one of their campaigns. But, sadly, this government has failed to live up to the values and ideals championed by our Father of the Nation.

Bad news for States

Sir, MGNREGA was initially implemented in 200 most backward districts and subsequently other 476 districts were included. I ask the Government to make a statement on the floor of the House that they will withdraw the circular that seeks to reduce the number of districts under MGNREGA from 676 to 200.
Dilution of this Scheme is going to hit Karnataka, West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh badly. These states, Sir, have a huge rural population. And the vast arid areas of Rajasthan are going to be affected as well. Why is the government restricting this scheme only to 2500 Blocks, Sir? What will happen to the livelihood of the people in other Blocks?

Let Bengal show the way

Sir, in 2012-2013, West Bengal was the top performing State with total man days of 20 crore, which is 109% higher than the national average. And in 2013-2014 the State again exceeded the targets even though the allocation was decreased.
• Sir, Bengal is No. 1 in 100 Days’ Work scheme.
• Bengal is No. 1 in Skill Development.
• Bengal is No. 1 in power sector.
• Bengal is also No. 1 in MSME sector.
• Bengal is No. 1 in women empowerment – our Kanyashree scheme is recognized globally.
• Bengal is No. 1 in culture. Our tableaux got the first prize in Republic Day parade last year.

Sir, all this was achieved despite the State Government paying more than Rs 1 lakh crore as debt installment. This was achieved despite the huge debt burden inherited from the CPI(M). This was achieved in spite of the State not receiving more than Rs 3000 crore for PMGSY or Rs 1000 crore for NREGA.

The funds allocated by Centre should reach States on time. While some States receive their funds on time, apart from an array economic benefits, other States suffer. This has a detrimental effect on the poor people.

Despite financial deprivation by the Centre, Bengal is moving ahead on the course of development. And now, thousands of crores of people will lose their livelihood because of Centre’s decision to divide the NREGA scheme.

Achhe din kahaan hai?

Sir, as per the information in the website on Ministry of Rural Development, over 10 crore households had applied for work under NREGA till November. However, work has been provided to only 8 crore households, leaving almost 3 crore without work.

During the last 8 years around Rs 180000 crore has been paid as wages to the workers, as per Rural Development Ministry. What is the figure during the past six months, since the new Government has taken over how much money has been paid towards wages to the workers under MNREGA? Why are the funds being slashed deliberately?

We should remove the word ‘Guarantee’ from the name of this scheme because, Sir, after this government came to power, not a single day’s wage has been paid. Is this the Achhe Din they talked about? Promises are made but not delivered.

Reduction in allocation

Sir, the Budget provision for NREGA was Rs 33,000 crore in 2013-14 and this year it is Rs 34,000 crore. If we take into account inflation, the allocation is much lower compared to last year. Is the government serious about continuing the scheme or wants to shut it down? Are they here to serve the interests of a chosen few?

My colleague Shankar Prasad Datta said Bengal has received 75 percent of the funds. Sir, I would request him and his party to please get the facts right before they speak. Because in the years 2013-14, Bengal received only Rs 2214 crore and this years only Rs 1072 crore, which is not even 50 percent. Still, we are No.1.

Sir, honourable Hukum Singh Deo spoke on this matter. He said yeh koi bhagwan hai kya jise badla nahi jaa sakta. Sir, hum sab ne Ramayan padha hai. We respect all religions. Sir, when Ravan came to abduct Sita, he came in the disguise of a sadhu. He did not take the form of a rishi-muni to go and serve Sita. Similarly, this government is not working for the welfare of people; yeh sarkar unke pet pe laat mar raha hai.

On one hand, the government is slashing the allocation for MGNREGA, which benefits the poor. On the other hand we see that the State Bank of India is giving away tax payers’ money to crony capitalists in the form of a loan. Sir, I do not want to name it. The SBI has sanctioned a loan of Rs 6000 crore for a coal mine in Australia even after 5 multinational banks have refused it. What times are we living in?

Labour-Material ratio

Sir, I want to raise another important issue – the proposed change in the labour to material ratio. Government is proposing a reduction of labour to material ratio from 60 -40 to 51-49. This change will dilute the employment objective of the scheme without increasing the productivity. This move will have detrimental effects and must be reconsidered.Instead, Sir, we suggest that the government should provide technical assistance and seek expert help in implementing this Scheme in the Gram Panchayat levels. Government in a democracy should be Government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Parting thought

Sir, I would like to end by referring to a tribal-dominated district where the MGNREGA scheme has failed to take off. It is the Aravalli district in Gujarat from where the Prime Minister hails. I have just one direct question for the government. Are they here to work for the welfare of the poor, farmers and downtrodden people of India or are they here to serve the interests of a chosen few?

Sir, six months after the misleading false promises of Achhe din, after 28 eminent economists wrote to the Prime Minister of the country, expressing their concern over the proposed permutation and dilution of the NREGA, it is falling on the ears of the narcissistic, tyrannical government, which is heartless, action-less and visionless.

I am standing here in the highest temple/church/masjid of democracy, in the winter of 2014, with a new acronym for NREGA. Sir, NREGA now is indisputably Nasty Ruthless Endeavour Going Anti-People.

Thank you, Sir.