Amidst incessant rains, Angela Rangad, a female activist from Meghalaya and the leader of Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR), sat outside the secretariat displaying placards and demanding the financial relieves for daily wagers and the marginalised sections.
Rangad said that Conrad Sangma’s “anti-people” government continued the year-long saga of lying and denying people’s rights. She demanded the immediate release of all pending benefits, announcement of a new stimulus package for people in distress, waiver of all farmer, small entrepreneur, and hawker loans.
Rangad also demanded days under MGNREGA to be increased from 100 to 150.
“We are being forced to protest against a government which constantly lies and is apathetic to people’s distress, a government which only knows to govern for its rich and corrupt cronies, a government which is actively seeking to deny people’s legitimate rights in the midst of pandemic hardships and a government which is unaccountable,” the TUR leader said.
Calling the incumbent government as the government of the rice people and corrupt cronies, Rangad said, “I will be here every day during office hours to remind the government of what it needs to do. The government has to immediately release that money that has been booked against the marginalised peoples’ names.”
She has also demanded that the government should announce an economic stimulus package, because it doesn’t help to just unlock now.
Referring to the reason she chose to protest, Rangad said, “I have to sit here to remind the Government of its duty especially amidst pandemic when people are suffering, those who unfortunately had Covid, their mounting medical bill and the Government is not taking it seriously.”
She mentioned that in March 2020, the government of Meghalaya announced an income support scheme for unorganised sector workers. As part of the Chief Minister’s Relief Against Wage Loss (CMRAWL), an amount of Rs 2,100 was to be given to taxi drivers, hawkers and domestic workers.
Rangad, however, alleged that after she followed up to see if the marginalised people received the financial assistance, she found out that they did not. She then filed an RTI which revealed that many people who had applied didn’t find their names on the list. Those whose names were on the list did not either get any money or received only Rs 700.
“The government is lying by saying that the account numbers were either incorrect or inactive,” said Rangad.
Secondly, under Meghalaya Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (MBOCWWB) the beneficiaries are all the workers registered through the Labour department where benefits of Rs 5000 were to be given to the labourers.
Rangad said, “The beneficiaries were supposed to call or SMS or Whatsapp their details to phone numbers announced by the Labour Department. Or, submit their particulars to District/Block labour offices or through locality dorbars.”
However, in a survey conducted from July to September 2020 among hawkers and street vendors of Shillong, TUR and Workers Power of Meghalaya (WPM) found that most of the people who had applied for the scheme were not on the list, or did not receive any money or only partially received the benefit.
“In November 2020, TUR filed a RTI with the Labour Department seeking information regarding the implementation of the income support scheme,” she further said.
In May 2021TUR/WPM made the list of beneficiaries who were supposed to have received the benefit public and asked that people send them their grievances regarding the scheme.
“Based on various surveys and grievances TUR found that many who applied could not find their names on the list, many whose names appeared on the list did not receive the benefit and many names had ghost phone numbers,” the activist said.
Rangad said that TUR and WPM submitted their first 1400-page-long complaint with more than two thousand complaints to the Chief Minister with messages of grievance on June 1 and submitted additional complaints two weeks later.
In the complaint the organisation demanded, “Immediate emergency independent and timebound enquiry into the implementation of the schemes, immediate release, within a week, of all pending dues in full to all beneficiaries which your office claims to have transferred, transfer of support to those who had registered and yet did not find their names on the list if they fulfil the criterion, a dedicated helpline for people to lodge their complaint about non-receipt of funds. “
On 14th June 2021, the Laboour Department announced two phone numbers, where people could lodge their grievances.
“In July 2021, People kept calling up TUR/WPM to inform that the either the govt. phone numbers were not reachable and switched off or inspite of lodging their grievance, the transfer of income support had not happened,” she said.
“TUR/WPM did a random survey of all the people whose complaints had been lodged with the government and found that more than ninety percent of them have still not received their benefits,” Rangad added.