Government of India’s flagship rural job scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guaranteed Scheme (MGNREGS) is once again under the eagle eye of the law. After the news of wage payments of workers up to Rs.283 crore due despite an amount of Rs.40,100 crore being earmarked for the current fiscal; it has been reported that the workers under the MGNREGS scheme were denied permission to form a union in Rajasthan since they do not qualify as ‘workmen’. The issue came to light when the Majdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, which comprises of NREGS workers approached the Rajasthan Trade Union Registrar and were refused registration because they did not qualify as ‘workmen’ as defined in the Industrial Disputes Act and the Trade Union Act of 1926, which defines ‘workmen’ as those engaged in a trade, business or commercial undertaking. The move comes as a setback to workers registered in the NREGA scheme who are fighting for their rights under the Act.
PM’s Take: From the view of having inclusive growth and protecting the interest of workers, it is imperative that NREGS workers fall under the purview of Indian Labour Laws pertaining to Minimum Wages Act, Trade Unions Act, et al. The same applies to Contract Labour. The legal implications, however, will differ keeping in mind the period of work for Contract Labour, NREGA workers and permanent labour.