Hungry & Desperate, Patiala MGNREGA Workers Bang Plates for Food
“If they are not fed they will die. Does the government expect to leave that on our conscience?” the sarpanch asks.
Video Editor: Vivek Gupta
“The administration is asking me to feed these workers. How can I feed them? You tell me how many times can I feed them? Eventually I have to cater to my family also right? How can they not be here and take care of this issue? If they are not fed, they will die. Does the government expect to leave that on our conscience?” Lubana sarpanch Karamjeet Singh tells The Quint from his village in Punjab’s Patiala district.
In a show of protest about how hard this lockdown has hit these daily-wage workers, who have also signed up for the 100 days of work guaranteed by the government under MGNREGA, they stood on the terraces of their home and banged utensils on the afternoon of 26 March. A day later, the sarpanch (village headman) tells us that no arrangements for ration or milk have been made despite their unusual plea.
These villagers belonged to Lubana, Kaidupur and Kanshuha villages that lie in the Nabha division of Patiala district. We spoke to panchayat secretary Didar Singh, who works for Lubana and Kaidupur village, and he confirmed what happened adding that they’ve done what they can do. “You should ask the deputy commissioner or speak to someone in Chandigarh about what will happen to them. There is only so much we can do. Our job was to tell the local authorities and we have told them that.”
He forwarded this reporter the following images of the women. “Please spread this in the media. The problem is that they do not have money, so even if they step out to buy ration, which everyone is so scared of doing as the police is beating people up and there are no provisions close by for vegetables and milk, they cannot buy the essentials even at subsidised rates and we cannot keep feeding them. There needs to be a better solution.”
Gurtej Singh from Kanshuha village is scared to step out. “Of course this has happened and it is so scary. If people do not have work what will they do? There is so much loss happening here and if one does not feed these people they will die. A neighbour who is a farmer was growing peas on his plot. He did not have the labour to harvest the peas and was afraid to step out himself too. Eventually all of it dried and he was forced to dump the crop. He has suffered and those who could have earned wages working on his plot have also suffered.”
On the same day that these villagers banged their plates, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, who incidentally hails from Patiala, said a door-to-door drive to deliver food to daily wage workers and the unorganised sector was to begin from 27 March.
Yet to receive the food items when this story was published, the villagers wait in anticipation for longer-term measures to ensure their survival through the lockdown while the world reels with the COVID-19 pandemic.
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