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CPI-M'S FARMERS FRONT BACKS BENGAL ON MGNREGA DIRECT PAYMENTS

A farmers organisation alligned with the CPI-M on Wednesday backed the West Bengal government on proposed direct payment of wages to MGNREGA beneficiaries, saying cooperative federalism must be followed. However, the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said the Centre's vigilance was also needed since it had come across specific corruption cases in the state relating to payment to beneficiaries under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme. "In principle, we oppose the Centre's move to pay wage directly to the beneficiaries by bypassing the state. Cooperative federal structure should prevail. But at the same time, a vigilance system should be put in place," said senior AIKS leader and its West Bengal unit Secretary Amal Haldar.

Banerjee recently charged the Narendra Modi government with "bulldozing the federal structure" while referring to a letter to the state government that said that the centrally-sponsored schemes were being rationalised. The West Bengal government has also criticised the Centre's move to transfer wages directly to beneficiaries under the rural guarantee scheme, calling it an "infringement on the country's federal structure". Haldar, however, said corruption in the MGNREGA scheme should be contained. "We have listed specific corruption cases in the state. We want there should be vigilance on part of the Centre. We want corruption in the scheme be eliminated and that the workers get more jobs and more remuneration," said Haldar. The AIKS leader also deliberated upon its 'jatha' (march) programme that will culminate in a rally on November 24 at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi.

The jatha will highlight a 15-point agenda of the AIKS, including demand for 200 days of guaranteed jobs under the MGNREGA scheme and a minimum daily wage of Rs 300, he said. As part of the programme, four major 'jathas' will be taken out from Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal early this month and converge in New Delhi. In West Bengal, the march will begin on November 8. "There will be 19 public meetings in West Bengal as part of the movement," he added.

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