The rally is currently underway at the Jantar Mantar monument. Udayani, Calcutta’s Jesuit social outreach, is behind the initiative. The implementation of a law protecting rural workers is at the heart of the dispute. Demands include an increase in guaranteed working days from 100 to 240.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of activists and poor workers from West Bengal and other 15 Indian states are converging on the Indian capital to demand jobs.
Udayani, the social outreach arm of the Calcutta Province of the Society of Jesus, is the driving force behind the rally.
Its director, Fr Jothi SJ, told AsiaNews that participants are poor peasants and unskilled rural workers who in theory are entitled to job assistance but, in reality, are not protected because the law is not being enforced.
The rally is taking place over several days, 11-15 September, at the Jantar Mantar monument in New Delhi. Some 155 activists from the Catholic organisation are involved.
The key issue is the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, (NREGA) a labour law known for providing “one hundred days of wage employment” to rural households whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
Fr Jothi notes that there are "various loopholes” that prevent the proper implementation of the law. In addition, “the central government has failed to fund budgets for individual states. The result is that in West Bengal there is a shortage in cash and work."
He hopes that the protest will be as successful as the previous rally in February, dubbed ‘Thala Bajao Andolan’, beating empty plates, to symbolise rural hunger.
Overall, the clergyman explained, the rally’s key goals are: proper funding, enforcement of the law, immediate registration of workers' applications when they are presented, faster payments, broader eligibility, and guaranteed working days increased from 100 to 240 per year.