High Court stays workers' right of unemployment allowance

High Court stays workers' right of unemployment allowance

The affirmative and bold step taken by the Department of Rural Development in Uttar Pradesh to pay unemployment allowance to laborers of district Sitapur under the NREGA Act was challenged by the BDOs in the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court.

The Hon High Court has reaffirmed and upheld the jurisdiction and authority of the Commissioner Rural Development and has directed the Commissioner to give a hearing to the petitioners and ensure that payment is made to deserving persons only.

The Dept of Rural Development had indeed taken a very commendable step by upholding the Constitutional right of workers for unemployment allowance which is a right guaranteed to them if they do not get employment within the stipulated time period. (Schedule III Para 7 of the Act)

The amount has to be paid from the state treasury and not from the wages made available by central funds.

Incidentally, under the NREGA no laborer is prevented from working elsewhere. The state is bound to provide 100 days of labour failing which it has to give unemployment allowance if demanded.

The committee which was constituted at the district level to look into the whole issue of unemployment allowance in Sitapur was chaired by an SDM rank officer along with two more government officers along with representatives of the organization which raised the issue. The beneficiaries were part of the committee as NREGA itself gives power of social audit to the workers whose participation is in keeping with the basic spirit of the act.

I would like to underline that NREGA completes three years on February 2. However, in UP it has made commendable progress only during the last one year. The present administration has sensitively implemented the Act in its true spirit. This has been in terms of developing effective grievance redressal mechanism and introducing worker and gender friendly Schedule of Rate (SOR) to measure the workers’ output.

NREGA however, is not in the pink of health in the state. There are issues which still need to be addressed such as checking corruption and pilferage, increasing coverage and ensuring work to the needy and facilitating smooth payment.

It needs to be seen if the state government manages to check incidents like the one which recently occurred in Hardoi. Here an influential pradhan under patronage of a ruling party minister physically manhandled workers demanding their right to work. The acid test for the state government lies in rising above political pressure to ensure the right of workers as guaranteed under the Act.

Arundhati Dhuru
Advisor to the Supreme Court Commissioners in the Right to Food case
Phone: 94150 22772

Published in: The Times of India