Chakka Jam of MNREGA Workers in Bihar

From the scrapping of the Amir Das Commission and acquittal of massacre-accused, dumping of the recommendations of the Land Reforms Commission, and failure to distribute 3 decimals of homestead land to the landless poor, Bihar’s Nitish Government has had a long track record of broken promises. The latest in this series of assaults on the poor is the Bihar Government’s withdrawal of the state-level allocation of Rs 30 to the Central Government allocation of Rs 138 as the wage for MNREGA, as a result of which the wage of Rs 168 announced by the Bihar Government was reduced to Rs 138. On May 7th, 2013, MNREGA workers and rural poor under the banner of AIALA held a massive demonstration in Patna to demand an answer from the Chief Minister.

MNREGA workers and AIALA declared a state-wide hartal (strike) and chakka jam to be held on June 8th. In response, Nitish Kumar sent a proposal to his Cabinet of MNREGA wages at Rs 162, which is still below the minimum wage.

On June 8th, more than 50000 MNREGA workers in 35 districts at more than 250 places struck work and hit the streets, blockading roads and railways. Several senior officials, MLAs and Ministers remained stuck for hours as a result, including the DGP at Fatuha (Patna), the SP at Jehanabad, the Land Reforms Minister Ramai Ram at Musahari in Muzaffarpur, BJP MLA from Pipra Dilip Verma at Gaunaha (West Champaran). Thousands were arrested at Patna, Gopalganj and several other districts. The DGP who was caught for hours in the blockade at Fatuha made it a prestige issue, and ordered a raid if a village the same night, arresting and jailing 5 MNREGA workers on charges of extortion and other cooked up charges. Efforts are on by the police to identify and arrest workers and leaders on the basis of video footage.

The participation of thousands of MNREGA workers in the protests is an indicator of the anger of the poor against the Nitish Government’s betrayals of promises.

Liberation Archive