Oral Judgment: [S.S. Shinde, J.]
Rule. Rule made returnable forthwith.
With consent of the parties, petition is taken up for final disposal at admission stage.
2. This writ petition takes exception to the communication dated 20th January, 2011 by the District Programme Coordinator, Maharashtra Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme cum Collector, Aurangabad, thereby directing the Functional Officer, Maharashtra Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (for short, "MREG Scheme") cum Tahsildar, Sillod District Aurangabad and Assistant Functional Officer, MREG Scheme cum Block Development Officer, Panchayat Samiti, Kannad that, the persons who are local residents of concerned village are only eligible to be registered under the MREG Scheme and accordingly steps should be taken. It was further directed that, names of persons belongs to VJNT and whose names are registered under the said scheme, the said names should be deleted. It was further observed in said letter that, while giving work under the said scheme, it should be allotted only after ascertaining that, the concerned person is resident of said village.
The petitioner-organization has prayed that, impugned communication dated 20th January, 2011 may be quashed and set aside and respondent No. 3 may be directed to allot job card and provide employment to the members of petitioner organization under the aforesaid scheme.
3. It is the case of the petitioner that, the petitioner is registered organization, mainly registered for agitating the grievances and welfare of the unskilled, unorganized labourers, who are from the tribal communities i.e. VJNT, Banjara, Wadar etc. It is the case of the petitioner that, members of the petitioner organization are mostly uneducated. Their names were registered under the old Employment Guarantee Scheme. The petitioner organization used to offer work to their members who are unskilled labourers.
It is the case of the petitioner that, the Union of India promulgated and enacted the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, (for short, "Act of 2005") which is having the main object to provide employment for enhancement of livelihood and security of the households in rural areas of the country by providing at least 100 days of guarantee wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult member volunteer to do unskilled manual work. It is further case of the petitioner that, in response to the said Act, the State Government framed various schemes. The Government of Maharashtra has also framed scheme in the name and style, such as, Maharashtra Gramin Rozgar Hami Yojana 2005, the Mahatma Gandhi Gramin Rozgar Hami Yojna etc. (for short, "MGEG Scheme").
It is the case of the petitioner that, members of the petitioner organization are mainly tribal and not permanent residents of any particular village. They have to travel for livelihood from place to place. According to the petitioner, the restriction imposed by the impugned communication dated 20th January, 2011 that, only persons who are residents of particular village, their names should be registered under MGEG Scheme is arbitrary, discriminatory and would defeat basic purpose of the Act of 2005.
4. The learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner submitted that, the petitioner submitted representation on 3rd November, 2009 to the Deputy District Programme Officer, Aurangabad and requested for issuance of directions to the concerned Village Development Officer for registration of the names of the members of the petitioner organization and for providing employment to them. The petitioner has also submitted representation to respondent No. 3 and also to other officers. However, by impugned communication, respondent No. 3, in stead of acceding to the request of the petitioner to provide work to its members, directed to delete their names and not to enroll the members of the petitioner. According to the Counsel for the petitioner, such directions are arbitrary and would defeat the object of the Act of 2005. Therefore, the Counsel appearing for the petitioner submits that, the petition may be allowed.
5. In pursuance of the notice issued to the respondents, one Mr. Balchand Kacharuji Jamdhade, working as Assistant Accounts Officer, in the office of the Collector, Aurangabad, duly authorised by respondent No.1 has filed affidavit in reply, it is stated in the said affidavit in reply that, the Government of Maharashtra is implementing 'National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme' and 'the State of Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Scheme'. It is stated in paragraph-2 of the affidavit in reply that, both the aforesaid schemes are implemented under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005. It is stated that, none of the provisions of the above Act restrained the petitioner from obtaining identity card for work, if they fulfill the conditions, i.e. (1) the person applying may be a local resident. This includes those who might have migrated some time ago but may return to their place of abode, (2) the person willing to do unskilled manual work and (3) apply as a household of local panchayat. It is stated in paragraph-9 of the affidavit in reply that, as per the Employment Guarantee Act, it is clearly mentioned that, an employment sucker who is unskilled labour should be a local resident which includes those who may have migrated sometimes ago but may return. Therefore, any person who is unemployed and is in need of work in the country should at the first instance be a permanent resident of said village. It is further stated that, if the labourers are moving from place to place and village to village and expecting to be registered at each place and at each village, such provision is not made under the Act of 2005.
It is further stated in the affidavit in reply that, objective of the Act of 2005 is to provide employment to an unemployed persons of the village who are willing to do work within a radius of 5 kms. from the village and if such work is not provided by the authorities, concerned person who is registered under the scheme is paid unemployed allowance. It is further stated in paragraph-15 of the affidavit in reply that, work can be provided to the labourers under MREG Scheme, who belong to tribal community, provided that, the tribal who are residing at one place during rainy season for continuous period and same is certified by the 'Panchayat' of such tribe and thus, on the basis of such certification, the said labourers are provided registration. It is further stated that, no such person belongs to particular Tribe whose case is certified by 'Panchayat' has been denied registration.
6. Upon hearing the Counsel for the petitioner and learned A.G.P. appearing for the State and upon perusal of the pleadings in the petition, annexures thereto and affidavit in reply filed by the respondent State, we are of the considered opinion that, the prayer of the petitioner cannot be considered within four corners of the provisions of the Act of 2005 and also under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme.
7. The objective of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 is to enhance the livelihood security of the poor households in rural areas of the country by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment to every poor household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The provisions of Section 3 of the said Act reads thus:
GUARANTEE OF EMPLOYMENT IN RURAL AREAS.
3. Guarantee of rural employment to poor households.-
(1) Save as otherwise provided, the State Government shall, in such rural area in the State as may be notified by the Central Government, provide to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work not less than one hundred days of such work in a financial year in accordance with the Scheme made under this Act.
(2) Every person who has done the work given to him under the Scheme shall be entitled to receive wages at the wage rate for each day of work.
(3) Save as otherwise provided in this Act, the disbursement of daily wages shall be made on a weekly basis or in any case not later than a fortnight after the date on which such work was done.
(4) The Central Government or the State Government, may within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make provisions for securing work to every adult member of a household under a Scheme for any period beyond the period guaranteed under subsection (1), as may be expedient.
8. Therefore, upon careful perusal of provisions of the said Act which are reproduced herein above, it is abundantly clear that, only local residents are entitled to register and apply for work. The word 'local' implies the person residing within limits of Grampanchayat. 'Local' also includes, those persons who are migrated some time ago but may return to the said village. Therefore, in our considered opinion, prayer of the petitioner that, the members of the petitioner who move from one place to another place and from village to village be registered at every village and they may be issued identity card of every village cannot be entertained which would dehors the provisions of the Act of 2005. There is no provision under the Act of 2005 to accede to the request/prayer of the petitioner.
9. The word 'household' appearing in Section 3 is defined in clause (f) of Section 2 of the said Act, which reads thus:
(f) "household" means the members of a family related to each other by blood, marriage or adoption and normally residing together and sharing meals or holding a common ration card. (emphasis supplied).
Upon perusal of definition 'household', it is abundantly clear that, household in its sweep also includes, holding of common ration card.
10. The provisions of Section 5 of the said Act provides for conditions for providing guaranteed employment. The provisions of Section 5 refers to the conditions specified in Schedule II under the said Act. Under Schedule II, the conditions for guaranteed rural employment under a scheme and minimum entitlement of labourers are given. Under the said Schedule, the adult members of every household who reside in any rural areas and are willing to do unskilled manual work, may submit their names, age and the address of the household to the Gram Panchayat at the village level in the jurisdiction of which they reside for registration of their household for issuance of a job card. The duty is also cast upon the Gram Panchayat to register the household, after making such enquiry as it deems fit and issue a Job Card containing essential details of registered adult members of the household which are enumerated under the said Schedule. One factor out of 10 factors which are required to be looked into by Grampanchayat is, elector's photo identity card number voters identity, if any. The condition No. 3 under the Schedule is also makes obligatory on the concerned authority to ascertain, Job Card issued shall bear the photographs of only registered adult members of the households to whom the Job Card has been issued. Under said Schedule, applications for work may be submitted in writing either to the Gram Panchayat or to the Programme Officer, as may be specified in the Scheme. The Gram Panchayat shall prepare and maintain or cause to be prepared and maintained such registers, vouchers and other documents in such form and in such manner as may be specified in the Scheme containing particulars of job cards and pass books issued, name, age and address of the head of the household and the adult members of the household registered with the Gram Panchayat.
Under clause (p) of Section 2 of the Act of 2005, 'Scheme' means a Scheme notified by the State Government under subsection (1) of section 4.
11. Therefore, it follows from the careful perusal of the provisions of the said Act of 2005, and Schedule II under Section 5 that, the person applying to register his name under said Scheme should be resident, within the jurisdiction of village panchayat. Under Schedule II of the said Act, it is also provided that, as far as possible, employment shall be provided within radius of 5 kms., of the village where the applicant resides at the time of applying. Therefore, adult members of every
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household who resides in any rural areas and are willing to unskilled manual work, can file application with the Gram Panchayat at the village level in the jurisdiction of which they reside for registration of their household for issuance of a Job Card. 12. Therefore, the contentions of the petitioner that, the members of the petitioner who have no particular place of abode and who belongs to VJNT, Banjara etc., should be allowed to register their names with the Gram Panchayat of different villages and they should be provided work all over the State, cannot be considered within the provisions of the Scheme and Schedule II under Section 5 of the Act of 2005. Therefore, on careful consideration of the provisions of the Act of 2005, Schedule II under Section 5 and the Scheme framed by the State Government, we are of the considered opinion that, by any stretch of imagination, prayer of the petitioner organization cannot be considered and granted. 13. In the light of discussion herein above, in our opinion, the impugned communication dated 20th January, 2011, which is assailed in this writ petition, cannot be said to be illegal or arbitrary, rather it is in consonance with the provisions of the Act of 2005 and Scheme framed thereunder by the Government of Maharashtra. 14. Hence, writ petition sans merit and same stands rejected. Rule stands discharged.