The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to seven states regarding suicides committed by workers over delayed-payment of wages under MNREGA.
"The commission has issued notices to the secretary, union ministry of rural development and chief secretaries of the governments of Maharashtra, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Kerala, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh calling reports in the matter within six weeks," an NHRC statement said.
The commission has asked for reports from the state governments and the ministry of rural development within six weeks. MNREGA which is the flagship scheme of the UPA promises 100 days of work for wages in a year.
The NHRC responded to a report in the Delhi-based Hindustan Times which highlighted how at least five workers -- Madhav Sonaji Raut, Amruta Gore, Datta Maghade, Prahlad Kokate and Changunabai Dakore, workers in Congress-ruled Maharashtra, had committed suicide as they were not paid wages for over three years.
HT had similarly reported two suicides from Jharkhand - Tapas Soren (Hazaribagh) and Jaggu Bhuiyan (Palamu).
According to the newspaper, there was a delay in payment of wages for about 27 lakh labourers in West Bengal, 18.20 lakh in Bihar, 13.40 lakh in Kerala, 11 lakh in Rajasthan and 8.7 lakh in Andhra Pradesh under the MGNREGA in 2012-2013.
After the publication of the story, Jairam Ramesh, union rural development minister, wrote to the Maharashtra and Jharkhand CMs describing the suicides as "shocking".
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, was notified on 7 September 2005, and is aimed at providing 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteered to do unskilled manual work. In its first phase the Act was notified in 200 rural districts for implementation.
Under the Act wages are to be paid as per the state-wise government of India notified MGNREGA wages, with payment to be done on a weekly basis and not beyond a fortnight in any case.