55-year-old Manjit Kaur works as a labourer in Jalaldiwal village under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). She is among 261 such workers of Ludhiana who have completed 100 days of employment under MGNREGA. Manjit, belongs to a Dalit family and working as a MGNREGA worker was her compulsion because of her poor financial condition. An illiterate, Manjit however impressed PM Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi when she addressed the NREGA workers at the national meet held on February 2.
Manjit said, “From across the country, five workers were chosen to speak in this programme and I am the only one from Punjab.” Manjit who at the moment is getting Rs 166 per day as daily wage while addressing the PM said, “No doubt NREGA has improved my financial condition and my kids are studying in schools and colleges, but daily wages should be at least Rs 250 a day because in open market one can easily get Rs 350 as daily wage. However, I being a woman and that too in my fifties cannot be too active. So I have no choice but to work within the village at low wages. However with inflation level, these wages need to be hiked.”
She also said that 100 days of employment should also be increased to 250 days of employment.
Apart from being a labourer, Manjeet also farms on panchayat land. “We have to eat food for the rest days of year as well. So this farming income is a must. I have four kids and to support their education I have to work hard. My husband is also a NREGA worker.”
Ludhiana and Fazilka were honoured in the meeting for utilising maximum funds as compared to other districts of Punjab.
ADC (Development) Dr Rishipal Singh Sidhu said, “We are providing jobs to 64,000 families under NREGA, though the number of workers who completed 100 days of work are only 261, but we are increasing this number as well. We will be providing 700 acres of vacant land to NREGA workers which can be used for plantation and hence they can take care of these plants later on as well. It will also increase the green cover.”