An alleged scam in the implementation of the Covid19 financial assistance, meant for the marginalized labourers, which was promised by the government last year, is hunting Meghalaya deputy minister Prestone Tynsong.
Tynsong, the second man in the coalition MDA government, is holding various plump portfolios including the labour department.
This alleged irregularity and delay to release the money to the beneficiaries compelled activist Angela Rangad to stage an indefinite protest alone in front of the Secretariat in Shillong.
The activist started demonstration on Monday and she would continue holding the protest till the state government releases the money to the beneficiaries and justifies its claim that there is no scam since many of the labourers have not received the financial aid.
Meghalaya deputy chief minister in-charge of labour department, Prestone Tynsong came under scanner after he blatantly denied irregularities or scam in the utilisation of the financial assistance meant for the daily wage labourers.
Rangad said that the government has claimed that Rs 52 crore was sanctioned for the financial assistance for the marginalized workers but “more than 50 percent is unaccounted for.”
Rangad termed the present government as a government of the “rich people and corrupt cronies”.
She has vowed to continue her lone protest every day during office hours to remind the deputy chief minister in-charge of labour that the financial assistance, meant for the daily wage labourers and small traders, has not reached them and the money should not be stolen.
“I am sitting here every day during office hours to remind the government that it should immediately release the money to the labourers,” said Rangad.
Rangad is the leader of the Thma u Rangli (TUR), an organisation that is working on issues concerning labourers and vendors.
“I have to sit here (in front of the Secretariat) to remind the government of its duty, especially during the pandemic when people are suffering as the economic activities have come to a standstill.”
“Poor families are the worst sufferers and those who unfortunately infected with Covid, got the shock of their life with the mounting medical bill,” Rangad added.
In March 2020, the Meghalaya government announced financial assistance for unorganised sector workers under the Chief Minister’s Relief Against Wage Loss (CMRAWL).
An amount of Rs 2,100 for three weeks was to be given to each daily wage labourers, hawkers and domestic worker (Rs 700 per week).
Rangad said when she followed up to know if the marginalised people have received the financial assistance or not, she found out that they did not receive it.
Rangad along with her organization, TUR then sought information from the labour department under the RTI Act in November 2020, which revealed that many of those, who had submitted their applications did not find their names in the list.
She alleged that those whose names were on the list either did not get any money or received only Rs 1400 or Rs 700.
She alleged the government and deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong cheated the people when he claimed that the account numbers of the beneficiaries were either incorrect or inactive.
“How can you (deputy chief minister) say that the account numbers of the beneficiaries were wrong or not active when the labourers who had received Rs 700 last year did not receive the remaining amount till now?” Rangad questioned.
Similarly, Rs 5000 was to be given to each labourer registered under the Meghalaya Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (MBOCWWB).
Recently, the TUR and the Workers Power of Meghalaya (WPM) submitted their first 1400-page complaint to the chief minister and demanded immediate release of the financial assistance in full to the labourers, who have not received it.
She also demanded an independent and time-bound enquiry into the implementation of this scheme.
After Rangad raised the issue, the labour department had on June 14 this year, published two phone numbers, where people could lodge their grievances.
The TUR also demanded that Rs. 2 crore sanctioned to each MLA each year should immediately be consolidated into a single fund of Rs. 120 crore and cash transfer/income support for the families of daily wage workers, domestic workers, taxi drivers, shop assistants, street vendors and marginal farmers should be done from such a fund at Rs. 5000 in two instalments.
“Working-class families are staring at hunger, disease and homelessness. This is a time to support the working classes of Meghalaya and therefore keeping in mind the financial crisis in the state, it is right to consolidate MLA fund and MP funds to help mitigate the crisis being faced by the toiling people of the state.”
Further, the TUR demanded that 25% salary of class one officers including central services officers and the tax refund being done for IAS & IPS officers should also be utilised to take care of the out of pocket medical expenses of the working class citizens during this pandemic.