The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:

The latest expression of the Modi government’s active hostility towards the demand based rural work guarantee law—the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) is the imposition of an AADHAR based payment system (ABPS) the deadline of which expired on December 31, snatching away the right to crores of workers.  Under the law, every rural worker has the right to a job card and every job card holder has the right to at least 100 days work.

The first violation of the law by the central government is to divide job card holders into eligible and non-eligible for ABPS. According to the government,  of the 25.25 crore registered workers only 14.35 crores are eligible, because they have done at least one day’s work over the last three years. But suppose a job card holder decides that she does need to work, on a MNREGA site, even though she has not done so earlier,  now she cannot do so since she has been declared ineligible. In other words over 10 crore workers, who have every right to a job card under the law, have been declared ineligible to get ABPS and therefore denied their right to work on a MNREGA site.

Even of the 14.35 crore so-called eligible job card holders, as many as 12. 7 per cent, around 1.8 crore workers,  do not have ABPS and will therefore not be eligible to work in MNREGA. Earlier the government had imposed a online registration system which given the poor connectivity in large parts of rural India, resulted in workers presence at the worksite not being accepted. They were and are being denied wages without online registration.

This is an outright assault on the law. MNREGA, regardless of its inadequacies such as the limitation to 100 days, has proved to be a lifeline for the rural poor, particularly at this time of high rural distress caused by unemployment. The Modi government is using technology to attack a legal entitlement.

The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) strongly condemns this illegal attack on workers’ rights as guaranteed by MNREGA and demands the withdrawal of mandatory linkages to an AADHAR based payment system.