Kannur: A group of female workers of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in Kannur district has alleged they were denied jobs because they did not take part in a protest organised by a front organisation of the CPM.
"This is the third time I am denied work because I could not attend party (CPM) programmes," alleged Bhargavi (60), a resident of Chadachikundam in Padiyoor grama panchayat of Kannur.
Bhargavi belongs to ward no. 8, Nidiyodi, of the panchayat.
Her batch of MGNREGS workers has 21 members. "Twelve of us were not given jobs on Sunday because we did not attend the farm workers' protest on Thursday," she said.
Padiyoor grama panchayat near Iritty is a CPM bastion with 10 of the 14 members belonging to the Left Democratic Front (LDF).
The Kerala State Karshaka Trade Union -- the farm workers' union of the CPM -- organiseds a 15-day-long protest and awareness rally across the state.
The leader of Bhargavi's MGNREGS batch asked the team to attend the protest rally of KSKTU at Sreekandapuram, 20km from Padiyoor panchayat. "Most of us refused to go because of personal reasons," Bhargavi said.
In her case, high blood pressure paralysed one side of her husband Valsaraj (67) a few years ago. "I have to rush home for lunch every day, feed him and return to work. So I take up work only near my house," she said.
"If I go for protests, I can return only by evening," she said.
But the mate (leader of the MGNREGS batch in her ward) allegedly threatened to deny them jobs if they did not board the bus to the protest site. "Only eight people of our batch went for the protest," she said.
On Sunday, when the group turned up for work, the mate allegedly said there was no work for those who did not attend the protest. Eight persons who attended the protest were given jobs. "I scolded the mate. She said she was helpless and was following the orders from the higher-ups," Bhargavi said. On Tuesday, 17 members of her group found jobs.
Bhargavi alleged the mate was acting on the instruction of former panchayat president Sreeja K and ward no. 6 member Thankamani K V.
Both CPM panchayat members have denied the charge. "I don't even know Bhargavi. I represent ward no. 6 and live in ward no. 9. I have no links to the happenings in ward no. 8," said Thankamani.
Bhargavi said she started working for MGNREGS when it was launched in Kannur in 2008. The wages have risen to Rs 311 now. She said she was denied work earlier when she failed to join the CPM's human chain protest.
The other members who were denied jobs refused to speak fearing repercussions.
Panchayat president B Shamsudhin said he inquired into the allegations though there were no formal complaints. "There is no truth in the allegations. No person holding any responsible position had directed mates to link MGNREGS jobs to political activities," he said.
Shamsudhin said the issue could either be a fallout of a dispute between two individuals or clerical issues. "Sometimes, names get dropped from the muster rolls because of clerical issues. We rectify them immediately," he said.
He said the panchayat employs 3,160 persons under MGNREGS. In Bhargavi's ward (Nidiyodi), 46 persons were given jobs under MGNREGS from January 18 to 31. "They come from different political parties and religions. Some are active members of our party. But we do not discriminate," he said.