The protest was supposed to take place in Saidapet. But, more than 300 persons with disabilities were stopped on Tuesday morning, with police saying they did not have permission to stage a protest.

TARADTAC members holding protest inside Koyambedu bus standTNM photo by Nithya Pandian
news Protests Tuesday, May 17, 2022 - 19:41

On Tuesday morning, more than 300 disabled persons sat inside the Koyambedu bus terminal and demanded the city police allow them to reach the protest site. They were all waiting to join the rest of the protesters who were waiting at Saidapet to demand job cards and job security under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), but their attempts to reach Saidapet for the protest were thwarted. While some women were seen carrying their infants and toddlers, others managed to reach Chennai with the help of their family members. But to their shock, the city police stopped them from entering the city and promised to provide them breakfast, but many had to stay hungry as the police did not fulfil their promise. It was only after the arrival of other police officers that they were allowed to proceed to Saidapet by 1 pm.

It was the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of all Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC) members which announced a protest to provide job cards and job security under MGNREGA to the persons with disabilities. The protest was supposed to take place in front of the Directorate of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, Saidapet. But, more than 300 persons with disabilities who arrived at Koyambedu Bus Terminal on Monday night and spent the night at the bus terminal, were stopped from proceeding to Saidapet on Tuesday morning.

"I came with my daughter to support my husband in this protest. We had our dinner last night. I wanted to feed my daughter some breakfast. But the police officials stopped us from moving out of the terminal. The police said they will arrange the breakfast, but only 70 members got the food and the rest of us are starving now," said Bharani, a mother of two kids.

People protesting
Protesters staged protest outside Directorate of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj,
Saidapet (Special Arrangement)

"We planned this protest a long time ago. But now they are saying we don't have permission to go to Saidapet and join the protest. Only people who arrived from Thiruvannamalai were stopped. There are more than 500 people who managed to reach the protest site at Saidapet,'' said Ramesh Babu, district president of TARATDAC.

"At the age of 76, I am still working to make ends meet. My children are living their own lives and we didn't want to disturb them for our daily expenses. This scheme seemed very beneficial so I joined as a worker under this scheme," said Selvaraj, an Andipatti resident from Thiruvannamalai, who was also stopped at the bus terminal. When TNM asked about the job guarantee, he said that he didn't have 100 days of work and got 35 days of work in the last year. "DMK party announced a lot of schemes during the election. But nothing has changed and we are facing many challenges right now," he said.

According to the statement released by TARATDAC, many MGNREGA employees with disabilities were not provided the job card that was mandated in Union government guidelines and they also demanded that the signing authority of job cards be changed from panchayat leaders in Tamil Nadu.

After the long wait at the bus terminal, they reached the protest site around 2 pm. The leaders held a meeting with Praveen P Nair, Director of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj. He promised the members that he would look into their demands. In the statement, released by TARATDAC, they said that Praveen Nair told them that they could approach the Block Development Officers to obtain a job card, if they were facing difficulties with the panchayat leaders.TARATDAC members seated for a meeting
TARADTAC members discussed with Rural Development Department officials
(Special Arrangement)

"Praveen Nair accepted our grievances and assured us that all the demands will be sorted out soon," said Namburajan, general secretary of  TARATDAC. "To our surprise, he also promised two important things during our meetings. One was that special grievance meetings will be conducted by the Block Development Officer every second Tuesday and secondly the District rural development director will conduct a special grievance meeting once in two months,” he said.

On May 5, 2022, Praveen P Nair, had asked the district collectors to ensure that job cards were provided to all the employees with disabilities and also maintain a separate NMR (Non Muster Roll). He also asked them to do away with the rule regarding payment of house tax and water tax by the job seekers.

TARATDAC had also sought the change in timing for taking geotagged photographs of workers by supervisors. They alleged the supervisors asked employees with disabilities to stay till 2 pm to take a geotagged photograph to update the real-time attendance of workers in the National Mobile Monitoring Software (NMMS) app. This is a requirement under the scheme, where supervisors have to update the NMMS app twice a day, once at 11 am and later between 2 pm to 5 pm. To this, the RDPR Department is planning to ask the Union government to change the timings to 10 am in the morning and 2 pm at noon.

Also Read: Employee rights of Persons with disabilities should be protected; TARATDAC seeks government intervention

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