A few months ago, employed under the government’s rural employment guarantee act, around 50 daily wage laborers broke stones, dug ditches, mixed and laid cement in the eye of one of the hottest summers the country has ever seen. They were toiling to construct 7 wells in the village of kalet, Phatka panchayat ,Distict khunti, Jharkhand that would alleviate the drinking water issues faced by the people in the region. Even as the men trudged through the scorch of the afternoons on minimum wage, the local government appointed contractor ignored the rights of the workers and denied them a temporary shelter to shade themselves from the sun. One of the workers suffered from heatstroke and collapsed while working. He barely escaped with his life.
The absence of worksite facilities has been a frequent critique leveled against the Government’s ambitious Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. (MGNREGA) The act requires the contractor to arrange for drinking water, shed, first aid and periods of the rest for workers. The workers of xxx village complain that they have to spend the period of rest either under the open sun or trek a distance to find shade under trees. The villagers are willing to work to bring much needed water to village but the lack of a shed is having an adverse affect on their health and well being.
Frequent appeals have lead to many promises from the contractor and the Block Development Officer. But the promises have gone nowhere in particular. Workers complain of the great stress under which one of their comrades has already fallen. When the worker collapsed from the heat, his co-workers had no shed to shift his fallen body into and away from the sun. The workers themselves surrounded him and shielded him with their bodies. They say that it was sheer luck that kept him alive after the ordeal.
Call to Action: Community Correspondent Rejan Gudia who came across this story and produced a video on it wants you to call Torpa Block Development Officer on 08809405388 and ask him to sanction and construct shelter for the workers and arrangement for medical attention if need be.