Shillong: After over a week of staging a peaceful sit-in demonstration in front of the entry gates of Meghalaya Secretariat, Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) leader Angela Rangad has decided to suspend her agitation till August 15 in order to give time to the labour department to get a ground report.

Rangad’s decision came after a meeting was called by the principal secretary of the labour department, GHP Raju, on Wednesday evening. Rangad was accompanied by representatives of hawkers, domestic workers, taxi drivers and labourers.

The discussion revolved around the two schemes announced by the government last year — Chief Minister’s Relief Against Wage Loss (CMRAWL), through which daily-wagers were supposed to get Rs 2,100, and Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (BOCW), which assured Rs 5,000 to registered workers.

The TUR leader has been demanding the government to immediately transfer the financial assistance that was promised last year during the first wave of COVID-19.

Following the meeting, Rangad informed the media that they have given time to the labour department to do their work.

“It is something that could have been done much earlier. We have given them time till Independence Day to show us that they are working. So for now, our agitation has been suspended. We have also told them that all of us are ready to get back to the streets if the government again shows the same thing of not being able to do anything,” said Rangad.

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Rangad said that the labour department has assured them that it will come up with a portal — one for CMRAWL and another for BOCW — so that people can monitor the activities themselves.

Rangad was also concerned since the government claimed that over a lakh people have been given Rs 2,100, but as per their data, many of them, whose names were on the list, didn’t get the money.

“We asked them whether it was possible that the government gave Rs 30 crore to the banks and the money is parked with the banks and the banks have not forwarded it to the beneficiaries. There are rumours that many departments do such kinds of parking of money,” said Rangad.

The activist alleged that the department has made a willful negligence as since last year they could have asked the banks for a daily report of how many transfers have been made and they should have put the onus on the banks to prove that the transfer has happened.

The TUR leader has asked the department to verify their claim again that 1,44,626 people have received the assistance of Rs 2,100. “They have to ask the banks again because as per their data more people have not received,” she added.

As for those who received partial payments like Rs 700 or Rs 1,400, the labour department has asked the banks to reply on why the beneficiaries received less money.

“According to the labour department’s data 33,000 people have not received anything at all. For this, the department has asked for time since they need to do physical verification,” said Rangad.

The labour department has assured to give daily and weekly reports about the physical verification of the 33,000 beneficiaries, she added.

Under BOCW, according to records, a total number of 65,000 people are registered. Rangad said that the department claims they have transferred the full amount of Rs 5,000 to 25,784 people.

“As per our survey and RTI reply, we know that those people against whose names the money has been booked have not got anything. So we have asked them to verify again. They have said that some people may have registered but failed to renew (renewal fee is Rs 10) last year due to the pandemic. We demanded them to give a notification that due to the first wave of COVID-19, that renewal fee and everybody registered with the board are deemed to be registered and renewed so that this Rs 5,000 goes to all of them,” said Rangad.

She claimed that there are enough funds with the board. “There is some Rs 152 crore lying and till date they have spent only Rs 12,89,20,000 last year to those 25,784 people,” she added.

Meanwhile, principal secretary GHP Raju said that it was an open discussion about the procedure adopted by the labour department in identifying the beneficiaries who received partial payment (Rs 700 and Rs 1,400) through the bank account.

“We are officially writing to those banks to verify why these beneficiaries received only Rs 700 or Rs 1,400. What happened to the accounts, why they suddenly became inactive? We have given these details to the NGOs for their benefit. There are a total of 13 banks we have identified where nearly 3,400 beneficiaries received Rs 700 or Rs 1,400 as the case may be and not Rs 2,100. We have asked the banks why the payments went through earlier and why the remaining has not been done. This has been explained to them,” said Raju.

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Concerning the personal data about the beneficiaries, Raju said that since most of the information was collected over phone, so that resulted in mismatch of the numbers.

“According to our data 32,000 people have not received anything. So we need to do a physical verification. The organisation has asked for a timeframe but I cannot do that because visiting 32,000 houses is an enormous exercise; it takes a lot of time,” said Raju.

A meeting was also held with the 13 bank officials before meeting with the TUR leader. Raju has urged the banks to create a ‘bank adalat’ and invite these beneficiaries to verify the information.

The principal secretary also said that he will urge the board to examine the cases of those labourers who couldn’t avail the scheme under BOCW. He added that as for issuing fresh help in the phase two of COVID-19, the department is waiting for a policy decision to come from the government

“There is no scope for any doubt, I can assure you there is no malpractice or manipulation or any scope for corruption here over the disbursement of Rs 38 crore since it is an online transfer and done through RTGS,” clarified Raju.

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