Contract for My Husband by raj17379

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									Dear friends,

Rozgar updates are going to be slightly more frequent from now on. This is because there
is a more reliable system in place to be able to circulate more of the material that is
coming in. If you like, you can receive them as “digests”, by changing your preferences
through the rozgar googlegroups homepage (http://groups.google.com/group/rozgar). As
always, each of the rozgar updates is also uploaded on the Right to food campaign
website, www.righttofoodindia.org.

This is a long update as I am circulating a couple of reports from Andhra Pradesh and
Uttar Pradesh. In this update:

   1. New NREGA material: Muster roll simplified, NREGA CD
   2. Two reports from Andhra Pradesh (K. Gopal and Neera Burra)
   3. NREGA articles from Banda by Pankaj Jaiswal

Regards,
Reetika.


1. New NREGA material: Muster roll simplified, NREGA CD

The Secretariat of the Right to Food Campaign has prepared some new material related to
the NREGA. This includes a CD with various NREGA documents and Simplified
Guidelines for Muster Roll Verification. The Guidelines are available online at
http://www.righttofoodindia.org/data/mrwatch07simplifiedguidelines.doc. Also available
from the home page http://www.righttofoodindia.org/index.html (look under “Current
Highlights”).


NREGA: Resources for Action

This CD was prepared as a resource for activists, scholars, administrators and others
interested in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). It contains
hundreds of NREGA-related documents, such as:

       the full text of the Act
       the Operational Guidelines
       articles on NREGA
       field reports
       campaign material
       survey questionnaires
       official documents
       guidelines for “muster roll verification”
Many of these documents are also available at www.righttofoodindia.org. For copies or
further information, please write to righttofood@gmail.com or rozgar@gmail.com.


2. Two reports from Andhra Pradesh (K. Gopal and Neera Burra)

a. Letter from CEC, Hyderabad to the Chief Minister on 15 February, 2007.

Subject: National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – Implementation matters

Over a hundred activists have come together in AP to assist in reaching the NREGA to
needy communities, to monitor the Act being implemented in the spirit of the law and to
assist in furthering its potential in promoting livelihoods and additional incomes for the
poor in agriculturally backward areas. As one among them, and following a discussion
among us, I am taking the liberty of sharing our concerns and suggesting possible ways to
tackle implementation bottlenecks.

We are keen that AP should continue to be the pioneer on making NREGA effective and
successful. It has a big responsibility as the nation looks to it and also had the privilege of
it being launched here by the Prime Minister. While we commend the efforts of our Govt.
and some officials, to make this law effective, several issues must be talked. We are
listing the key ones with seek necessary action and corrective steps in order that NREGA
can reach the people and serve its intended purpose.

   1. The wages for bush clearance, planting of saplings and watering of plants is
      extremely low and come to about twenty five to thirty rupees. The SSR for such
      items need to be considerable enhanced to ensure the minimum wage. Attached a
      quick study undertaken by us on watering of plants to show the extent of injustice.
      Also the recent revision does not meet the ends of justice to the workers, most of
      who are women. “Lead” is not being included as work whereas the women have
      to walk considerable distance to fetch the water. The SSR must build distance and
      the time consumed in fetching water, rather than merely paying on the basis of the
      number of trees being watered. Those undertaking watering must be provided
      with vessels to carry the water.
   2. With the advent of summer, soils and work conditions have become hard. It is
      necessary that a revised summer wages must be provided in the NREGA. This is
      crucial time when workers are desperate for work and paying them low wages
      after such extensive toil will de-motivate them from joining NREGA. We request
      this especially in the case of feeder channel work and farm ponds. In works such
      as feeder channel, bush clearance rates must be included and its rate enhanced.
   3. In the case of tank de-silting being taken up in a massive way, we find that “lead”
      is not being included. Women have to carry the load to considerable distance and
      dump it and this is later compacted. The SSR provides for “lead” only in the case
      of using bullock carts in cases exceeding forty meters and tractors for further
      distances. But anything less does not qualify as lead. The point to note here is that
      in most tanks the worker have to carry and dump the soil as it involves going up
    and placing it on the bund and this cannot be done by bullocks or tractors. So the
    SSR must include “lead” in all cases human walk and labor including the work
    needed for having a reasonable underfoot conditions.
4. We observe that the banks are deducting 2% service charge from the wage of the
    workers. Either you ask the banks to stop this practice or the government must
    meet such expenses.
5. The manner in which transfer of resources is being done for housing completely
    contravenes the state guidelines. There is no muster roll and a lump sum transfer
    is made to the household and not the worker and this goes against the provisions
    of the Act. Also weaker section housing is not included in the shelf of works
    approved under the Act.
6. There is a gap between one work being completed and the other being started.
    This is bad practice and workers loose time and have to hang out and ask for
    work. Most Field Assistants believe that after a work is done they must wait for
    one week and most often two to commence the next work. This is one primary
    reason why AP has performed poorly in the number of ways of provision of work
    to those seeking wage work. There must be emphasis on planning and having all
    sanctions well ahead.
7. In the light of the above we suggest that at least four to five works must progress
    simultaneously with workers having option to choose the worksite as convenient
    to them.
8. The responsibility of the Field Assistant must include mobilizing and guiding the
    workers and being present at the worksite. This is not happening. Instructions
    must go to them to be pro-active in ensuring wide worker participation and their
    performance measured on that basis.
9. Hamlets are not receiving work or attention from the field staff. The poorest live
    in such places and special measures must be initiated to involve the people in such
    habitations to come forward and participate in NREGA.
10. In Medak and some other districts, tools for work are not being provided forget
    the amount payable for its maintenance. On each crow bar the worker is now
    spending rupees ten and more per week. Also women are taking to tasks such as
    digging and hence immediate measures to correct this must be taken. There must
    be clear instructions to the Field Assistants to note in the muster rolls tools being
    used at the worksite. Women must be provided with baskets and pots.
11. The current practice of paying the salary of the Field Assistant as NREGA wage,
    contravenes the law. In fact in some villages we find that the bulk of wage has
    gone to the field assistant, fudging NREGA employment statistics. This cost must
    be met from funds provided to meet the management costs of NREGA.
12. Work place facilities are totally missing in the NREGA in districts like Medak.
    We suggest that for every twenty workers there must be an attendant to fetch
    water, put up the shade and take care of any help that the workers need. Also
    glasses, container and a handle to pour water instead of dipping hands or glasses
    are a must.
13. In all habitations there must be a crèche as women feel that it is better to have
    them there rather than at the worksites. Milk, biscuits and bread must be given to
    the children and thus meet the standards set by the Supreme Court.
14. In some places shade materials have been provided but are with some members
    /leaders of VELUGU who have not accountability to the villagers nor their work
    being scrutinized by the Programme Officer. Instructions must go immediately
    asking them to deposit such items with the Panchayat. As summer is approaching
    it is vital that necessary action is taken on the provision of work place facility.
15. Government doctors must visit the worksites to provide medicines and undertake
    health check up.
16. Village secretaries are not issuing receipt when workers are applying for work.
    The Field Assistant is saying that this is not their business. Unless this aspect is
    completely hauled and village secretaries are compelled to respond, the key
    provision of the Act will be overlooked.
17. We request that computer data must be in Telugu and not in English at least in the
    case of wage payments. In the IT the details of employment are given with
    household ID and request that their names must also be printed alongside for easy
    reference. Household wage analysis data must be displayed in the villages and the
    promised village website containing works approved and payments made are only
    in the guidelines and not in the villages. It is a simple task to bring in transparency
    and we do not understand why this is not being done.
18. Villages have no clue of the sanctioned shelf of works. It must be made available
    and displayed in the village. Also in some districts a bulk shelf of works for the
    Mandal as such is provided with discretion of the MPDO in undertaking them.
    This leads to the MPDO being central in opening and allocating works and they
    do this by creating a temporary ID in the IT system. This leads to problems later
    on and hence we suggest that village level works must be identified and integrated
    into the district level ID, so that the works can go on unhindered.
19. New applications have been submitted but job cards are not being issued. In some
    villages the govt. personnel are charging 10 to 50 rupees to give job card. Social
    audit has brought out that in several places the cards were issued in August but to
    date has not been given to the workers. We urge that the POs must be asked to
    undertake its issuance as a specific responsibility.
20. The revised SSR has not been informed to workers and they are in the dark and at
    the mercy of officials Education on it must be done and wherever the payment is
    not measuring up to the minimum wages, corrective measures must be taken.
    Because of wage differential between various works and until it is set right, the
    officials must provide for a choice on works that workers prefer and possible in
    summer heat conditions. Please note that the earlier rates were for monsoon and
    post monsoon season and hence new summer rates must be announced, as done
    earlier in Food for Work where district collectors were given autonomy to revise
    the SSR. It must be noted that the govt. has arbitrarily changed the SSR and hence
    cannot now shift the onus on to the workers, and this will lead to people loosing
    faith in NREGA.
21. Instead of acknowledging employment applications, in several places a register is
    being maintained in the village to note them but it does not have any date. We
    urge that as provided under the Act, receipts must be given and maintaining such
    a register cannot be the substitute. This is important as wherever receipts are
    provided, it changes the attitude of officials and they are providing work.
22. Technical sanction and work commencement order must be issued for all planned
    and approved works. This is not being done leading to predating sanctions and
    delay in payments.
23. Technical assistants must give the work measurement and undertake division of
    groups among the workers while showing the work. They must be always with the
    workers and not running all the time around Mandal offices.
24. Govt. must supply pucca Measurement sheets to Technical assistants and entries
    should be in it rather that writing on slips of paper as that can be changed and is
    the current practice.
25. Govt. has changed the muster roll and this revised muster roll must be shown to
    the workers/activists as the new muster roll also provides details of the payment
    to be made to various people.
26. The government must make available the pay order and pay slips to the workers
    once the payments are approved. Currently it goes only to the post office and the
    worker does not know what he/she is getting and in some cases leading to
    manipulation by the field assistant or the postmaster.
27. A lot of records and paper are to be kept by the field assistant and rationalizing
    them is needed so that they can devote time to other tasks and assist the workers.
28. In some villages the Field Assistant is saying that only one person per family
    should come to work and please correct this notion and train /inform them of the
    workers rights and their responsibilities.
29. Opening of post office accounts is now a must. But this is not happening and
    hence many workers are loosing employment opportunity. Could you please
    ensure that the post office, which receives a generous service charge, undertakes
    this and not place obstacle. Please note that paying through post office is govt.
    decision and so the govt. must do this task as a priority. Also in some places
    village secretaries and field assistants are keeping the passbooks and this practice
    must be stopped and those doing so be punished.
30. In some post offices the workers are being asked to do compulsory savings and
    now they are taking one hundred rupees to open an account rather than rupees
    fifty only that was agreed by them with the Government when this arrangement
    was agreed. We request you to enhance the services being provided by the post
    office as they are getting a handsome commission.
31. In several villages Job cards are with the Field Assistant or the Village Secretary
    and they are refusing to give it to those who alone must have its possession.
32. Some Mandals are declared drought hit by the government and we request taking
    of additional measures to enhance work in such areas and provide food security
    through schemes such as Food Assurance that was adopted by your govt. upon
    assumption of office.
33. We have one specific request and a priority. It is vital that AP shows a good out
    turn in terms of the number of days of work that is to be provided. Doing so in the
    first year will gear up the system to deliver on this task and inspire worker
    confidence. It is true that all those who have registered may not be seeking work
    but even among those asking for work, the performance of the state averages
    between 20 and 25 days per household. This is pathetic and calls for corrective
    measures. The primary reason for it is the apathy among lower level officials in
        effectively implementing the Act. Also being the first year, the system is not yet
        in place and workers took time to understand the provisions and entitlements
        under NREGA. In the light of these facts and circumstances, we request that the
        AP government to extend the NREGA employment quota for this year and make
        it available at least until April 30th 2007 and not end March as provided under the
        Act. Alongside the govt. must take specific measures including directing officials
        and programme officers to see that within the next two months they reach the
        target of providing one hundred days of work to all who are seeking it. This target
        must be achieved in full in the drought declared areas, as the distress here is high.
        Such a step is vital for the NREGA to take off and perform to societal expectation
        in terms of entitlements.
    34. For NREGA to be sustainable the nature of works being taken up and the manner
        in which the resources are invested is vital. We find very little concern for this
        aspect and very soon it will be shown a waste of resources. For some of us who
        have been engaged for long in finding out livelihood and income opportunities in
        rain fed agricultural areas and holds the bulk of the poor, a new approach is vitally
        needed. We suggest that instead of development, the focus of investments must be
        on “stabilizing” agriculture. Making development work on dry lands by blindly
        adopting the mainstream irrigation approach will not work or deliver. Instead of
        intensive one pill approach we need to adopt an “extensive, aggregate and over a
        period impact”. Hence we urge that bulk of the current works be stopped or taken
        through other schemes and NREGA works focus only “stabilizing” agriculture,
        soil enhancement and natural resources with a view to reduce risk and leading to
        conditions that create endowments that is vital for development investments and
        measures. Towards such innovations we request the Govt. to create a dialogue
        involving farmers, scientists and activists so that concrete and measurable
        “works” can emerge under NREGA and tackle the problems facing chronically
        drought prone areas.
    35. We are willing to assist the government in the realization of the above and discuss
        other practical hurdles facing the workers in NREGA.

K.S. Gopal
Center for Environment Concerns
3-4-142/6, Barkatpura, Hyderabad
Phone: 040-27564959/27563017
E-Mail: cecgopal@yahoo.com

WAGE RATES IN WATERING PLANTATION

In Muslapur village of Medak, watering of bio-diesel plants (Pongamia) was taken up only for 10
days. After that they were asked to stop watering. Until now those who were involved were not
paid anything, even though one of them is from the family of Field Assistant. Despite rounds to
MDO’s office they were not able to get payment. Even for other works also there is inordinate
delay in wage payment. They were promised that they would be paid Rs. 30 per day. They were
not told about wage rates mentioned in SSR. They were told about the daily wage in the village.
In this village water was initially fetched from a bore with hand pump. As it went out of operation
water was fetched from a nearby irrigation tank (Kunta). Both of them are at a distance of 300
meters. Most of the plants have survived. At the time of the visit they have stopped watering the
plants. They were not able to say about the number of plants watered in a day.

In Itikyal village of Regode mandal, watering of bio-diesel plants (Pongamia) was taken up for 35
days by three women – Balamani, Anitha and Sayamma. Then they were asked to stop watering
and this work was handed over to three other women. Until now those who were involved were
not paid anything. They were promised that they would be paid Rs. 30 per day, the prevailing
wage for agriculture work in the village. They were not told about the SSR wage rates. Besides
this, muster rolls were not properly maintained. In the Mandal office it was told to us that
according to the muster roll they have watered only for two days. In this village water was
fetched from abandoned irrigation wells and pits dug in the nearby streams. Fetching water from
abandoned wells posed problems, as there were no proper steps to enter the wells and fetch water.
The women took considerable risk. Also, these sources are temporary and will last for a few days
only as these sources dry up. In such an event the water has to be brought from a longer distance.
At present while one well is at a distance of 100 meters from the plants another source is at a
distance of 250 meters. Most of the plants have not survived. This makes it difficult to believe
that watering was done for 35 days. In both the cases women workers were not told about the
number of they need to water each day, or the payment for watering each plant. They were only
told that they would be paid according to the agriculture wages: Rs. 30 plus two bottles of
toddy, total wages equaling Rs. 34. In both the villages many of them were not paid wages
towards digging pits and planting though the work was over two months back.

According to the existing norms Rs. 600 is allowed to transport water ten times per acre for 200
plants, and Rs. 400 is allowed for watering ten times an acre of 200 plants. This implies that Rs.
1000 is allowed for watering 2000 plants one time, i.e., Rs. 0.50 per plant that includes
transportation of water. Then to receive Rs. 100 as the minimum wage one has to water 200
plants in a day. This will be difficult even if water is available on the field itself. If it involves
considerable walking and labour like working on a hand pump or getting down in to an
abandoned well and climbing back with full load of water, watering 200 plants would be an
impossible task. With this piece wage rate it is impossible to achieve minimum wages.

These rates were revised up wards according to GO Ms.No.486 dated 16.11.2006. According to
this GO Rs. 1.60 will be paid for watering one plant that includes transportation of water. This is
three times more than the existing rate. If we assume the 60:40 ratio for transportation and
watering, Rs. 0.64 will be paid for watering itself. This is a marginal improvement over the earlier
situation, but still will not enable achievement of minimum wages. According to this GO if we
assume the above ratio Rs. 0.96 will be paid for transportation of water per plant, but the distance
from which water needs to be transported is not made clear.

b. Article by Neera Burra

NREGA: A stock-taking

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, (NREGA) will complete one year
on 2 February, the date on which it was notified last year in 200 districts of the country.
NREGA, passed by Parliament in August 2005, is a path-breaking legislation that ensures
100 days of guaranteed wage employment for one member of every household who
volunteers to do unskilled manual work. There is a legal guarantee by the government
that the work has to be provided on a continuous basis. Failing this, the person will be
provided an unemployment allowance for every day that work is not made available
within 15 days of application. If employment or compensation is not given, the concerned
person has the right to seek judicial intervention to ensure his/her rights.

The Act has many other objectives and provisions as well. It is intended that the assets
created would be durable which in turn would contribute to agricultural and rural
development. Equal wages are to be paid to men and women and children are not to be
employed under any circumstances. Work-site facilities such as provision of drinking
water, shade, first-aid kit and a crèche have to be provided if there are more than 5
children.

During the course of last year, there have been multiple agencies and institutions
monitoring and evaluating what is going on in the field. Agricultural workers’ unions,
NGOs and social activists, academics, research institutions and the government at
different levels have been monitoring implementation. Though it is difficult to get exact
numbers, field visits anecdotally suggest that large numbers of people who have applied
for work have not got any work at all. Where work was provided, the average number of
days of employment was 20-25 as compared to a guarantee of 100 days. There does not
seem to be any case in the country where an unemployment allowance has been paid. The
reason for this is that labourers have no proof of having applied for work as no dated
receipts are given to applicants for employment and hence they cannot make a claim.

With respect to the question of payment of minimum wages, the picture varies across
states and districts. For instance, the wages paid in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan
are close to the minimum wage but that is not the case in Gujarat and Jharkhand. We do
not have enough data to judge whether men and women are being paid equal wages. The
general impression across the country is that the quality of the assets created leaves much
to be desired. Work-site facilities are virtually non-existent except for the provision of
drinking water, which is also not provided everywhere.

Informed commentators have raised valid questions about the implementation of
NREGA. If the quality of implementation is not up to the mark, then what makes it
different from its predecessor employment programmes? If work-site facilities are not
provided, then what will happen to young children left to the care of their siblings? If
there is corruption in the payment of wages, then what distinguishes NREGA from other
government programmes?

There are no easy answers to the questions and doubts raised. Certainly, we cannot say
that the implementation of NREGA during its first year is fully satisfactory. An overall
assessment would suggest that it is a mixed picture across states and districts. However, it
would be premature and unfair to write off NREGA on the grounds of the short-comings
found in this first year. Wherever it has been implemented well, it has made a huge
difference in the lives of the poor. Here are some stories of people interviewed at the field
level in Andhra Pradesh.

Talari Yadamma, 45 years old belongs to a dalit family. She has worked 30 days on EGS
works and received Rs. 120 per day. She worked with her daughter. The main tasks she
was involved with were bunding, pitting and watering of plants. She said that she needed
more work. ”EGS work is good because it is continuous. We need more work. When I
worked in agriculture I used to be out of the village for a month at a time. We traveled
almost 100 kms. in search of work. We had to spend Ugadi (Telegu New Year) outside
the village and we got paid only Rs. 30 per person per day. Groups of 15 persons went
with the labour contractor in a lorry to far off villages. We went twice last year. Now that
we have got work in our own village, why should we go out in search of work? After
EGS works started, we have stopped going out to work.”

K. Jangai, another dalit, 65 years old, said: ”My son and I worked for 119 days on
bunding, pitting and planting work. I worked as a rickshaw puller in Hyderabad for 20
years. I used to earn Rs. 200 per day but I spent Rs. 50 every day, as well. Now that EGS
work has come to the village, I have stopped going to Hyderabad and prefer to stay in the
village even though I earn a little less. This way I can look after my son. There are 15-20
people from our village who worked as rickshaw pullers in Hyderabad.”

“When I was working in Hyderabad, I used to come back to the village every 10 days for
two-three days. On EGS work I can come home in the evening. When I worked in
Hyderabad, I did not know what was happening at home and they did not know how I
was. Now with EGS work, I can look after my family. I have 6 daughters and 1 son and
last year I married off a daughter and I was able to pay for her wedding expenses from
the EGS wages I earned. If I don’t get EGS work, I will have to go back to working as a
rickshaw puller in Hyderabad and I don’t want to do that.”

Yacharam Satiya is 27 years old and married with 2 children. He used to work with a
labour contractor digging bore wells and was paid Rs. 700 a month. He had to travel a lot
and went as far as Kanataka and Maharashtra for work. He traveled for 10 months in the
year but came back in between for a few days. This was before he got married. After
marriage he started working for a tractor owner on a daily wage of Rs. 50 and sometimes
even Rs. 100 but this work was not continuous so he decided to work in a rice mill where
his job was picking up and carrying bags of rice and paddy. “If we got work we had to
work day and night for 20 hours and then we got paid Rs. 200. But if there was no work,
then we got paid nothing. My knees started paining a, lot because I was carrying such
heavy loads of 80-100 kgs on my back. I wanted to stop the work as my health was being
affected. When the EGS works started, I stopped going to the rice mill. Now my wife and
I have worked 50 days and earned Rs. 5000. We want more work and we will put in an
application.”

Kavali Ishwaramma is 35 years old.”We used to go as construction labour to the Ramoji
Film City near Hyderabad. We worked there for 2 years. We used to come to the village
every month to collect our rations. That is how we heard about EGS. We left our two
daughters with their grandfather in the village Now that EGS work is available in the
village, we won’t leave the village for work.” Ishwaramma worked for 44 and a half days
on bunding, pitting, plantation and watering work and got paid Rs. 120 per day. She
worked alone as her husband is a jeetam (bonded labour on an annual contract). “My
husband is a jeetam with a local farmer. He is paid Rs. 8000 per year. He has been a
jeetam from February 2006. Our daughter got married and we needed money so we
borrowed Rs. 20,000. They have to pay an interest of Rs. 3 on Rs. 100 per month (which
is an effective 36 per cent interest rate). “He will have to work for several years to repay
the loan. Last year before the EGS work started, 20 people became jeetam in the village.
Now 10 people have got released because their families earned good wages from EGS
work.”

Indiramma is 30 years old. Her husband has been a jeetam for 4 years. She worked on
EGS works for 133 days and earned Rs. 13,962. “We took a loan of Rs. 20,000 four years
back to construct a house. My husband used to get paid Rs. 6000 per year for the first 2
years and then this was increased to Rs. 7,000. The interest on this money was Rs. 3 on
Rs. 100 per month. I also worked for the same landlord and was paid Rs. 20 per day.
With my EGS earnings, I have been able to pay back the landlord and now my husband is
a free man.”

In village after village, there was ample evidence to show that people stopped migrating
wherever work was available under EGS. But what was amazing was that women were
able to release their husbands from bonded labour using their EGS earnings.

What comes through loud and clear is that NREGA has the potential to improve the lives
of millions. But one has to recognize the deep-seated hierarchies of caste, class and
gender cannot be wished away by passage of legislation. It would be unfair to place at the
door of NREGA the blame for all the ills of an inegalitarian society. Moreover, in many
parts of the country there is little community mobilization that results in making demands
upon the state and its machinery. Illiteracy makes corruption easier when post-masters
and local officials give less money to the labourer than is reflected in their post office
passbooks. In the case of Andhra Pradesh, for example, despite elaborate and systematic
computerization, social audits have revealed the presence of corruption in the preparation
of muster rolls and payment of wages. This has happened in other states as well.
Whatever the inadequacies in planning and implementation of the law there might be,
there are stories of success in some districts in some states. What we have to do is to
study the reasons for these successes and see how they can be replicated elsewhere. The
true potential of NREGA needs to emerge.

Neera Burra (neeraburra@gmail.com)


3. NREGA articles from Banda
[Note: These are from a 10 part series. The remaining articles will be uploaded on
www.righttofoodindia.org soon.]

NREG Act tottering under corruption: Some make a fast buck (Pankaj Jaiswal
Banda, February 2)

BUNDELKHAND CONTINUES to be hit by drought-like conditions with farmers
committing suicide under the burden of mounting debts, poverty and government apathy.
Under such circumstances, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)
could prove to be a boon for the multiple problems plaguing the seven districts in this
region.

The NREGA may be used to revive ponds, build checkdams and undertake plantation
work by employing the rural folk under the scheme. The NREGA may check the exodus
from the area, with farmers and agrarian labourers migrating not only to the plains of UP
but also to other states.

Ironically, it is proving a failure due to rampant corruption. How corruption has distorted
the scheme can best be illustrated by the pond revival project in Chandpura village in
Naraini Block of Banda. Over 100 villagers of Chandpura got themselves registered to
seek employment under NREGA. Of them, 100 got job cards and eventually 40 got work
to dig the nearby Mahoracha pond.

The gram pradhan and panchayat secretary resolved to get 'excellent' work done on the
pond. The project cost was approximately Rs 6 lakh.Work began in late October but
Pradhan Basantlal and Secretary Ramgopal Verma deployed a couple of tractors to get
the pond dug overnight.

Machines cannot be used in any project under the scheme, as the spirit behind the
NREGA is to draw up projects and execute them through manual labour only to ensure
jobs for the villagers.

But then, why did the two deploy tractors?

"Simple, for getting the work done fast, within a day or two by deploying machines and
save on the cost of employing 40 labourers for several weeks. And pocket most of the
money, by showing on papers that the work was done by the labourers," said Raja
Bhaiya, who along with other villagers and the labourers launched an agitation and took
it the issue to the district administration.

Dharmendra, Shyamlal, Ramdulare, Suresh and others produced their job cards showing
14 days of work and even payments made for two days, though they claimed that they
were not employed for so many days and were not paid even for a single day. However,
Pradhan Basantlal denied deployment of tractors and any malpractice. But the agitation
forced the district administration to hold an inquiry into the case.

Before the inquiry team reached the spot for inspection, the Pradhan and the secretary got
another team of labourers to remove the tractors' 'marks' from the pond. The
investigation, nevertheless, proved that there was some anomaly and action was ordered
against both. The secretary was suspended with immediate effect.

The pond could not take shape. The labourers could not get employment. And for a few
days of labour that the villagers had put in, they are still awaiting payments. But money
has been spent.
pjaiswal@hindustantimes.com
(Written under the ageis of CSE Media Fellowship)

(Photo caption: The Mahoracha pond where tractors were deployed instead of men. Work
remains abandoned at the pond for over two months now. Picture by Pankaj Jaiswal/HT)

Numerous queries expose lacunae: Hisaab Do Campaign (HT Correspondent
Lucknow, February 2)

With the National Rural Employement Guarantee Scheme completing one year on
Friday, people from several districts gathered here under the 'Hisaab Do Jawaab Do'
campaign to share the ground realities about the implementation of the scheme.
Common issues shared by most of the district representatives included non-payment of
wages, non-availablity of muster rolls on worksites, muster rolls not matching the
attendance registers, job cards not in possession of the beneficiaries, lesser women
participation and violation of Minimum Wages Act.
The 'Hisaab Do Jawaab Do' campaign raised questions as to how many job cards had
been made so far? How much had been spent on this scheme? How many people got
work and for how many days? How many women, disabled and SC/ST people had been
given jobs under this scheme? In this experience-sharing workshop where people from
various districts, civil society organisations and government officials participated, Manva
Devi, a field worker from Kaimur region, informed that after travelling in at least 50
villages, she found that almost everywhere people had not been given minimum wages,
especially women, who were given Rs 20 as wages for the entire day's work. She asked
people in these villages not to accept anything less than Rs 58 as their wages and also
demand medical aid in case of accident. A senior social worker from Pratapgarh, Ram
Bhajan Shukla informed that till now, every person enrolled under this scheme should
have got 100 days' work but on an average these people had worked only for around 25
days in a year. Job Cards were made but were in possession of the gram pradhans.
Sanjay Singh, elaborating on Bundelkhand region, also highlighted points like
involvement of contractors and tractors on work sites which was prohibited under the
Act. Job card receipts had not been given to people. Facilities like water, shelter,medical
aid and creche for small kids had not been made available anywhere. Additional
Commissioner, Rural Development, Chandrapal Arun accepted that the programme
started a bit late in the State but till date 38 lakh job cards had been created and on an
average, people were provided work for 45-days in the entire year in the State. Out of 858
crore, Rs 558 crore had been spent in the State. Under this scheme, people had to apply
for work through application; no one would reach them and offer work, he said.
The campaign demanded that the State Government constitute State Employment
Guarantee Council and State plan, increase the minimum wages, make muster rolls public
and ensure 33 per cent participation of women and three per cent participation of disabled
in the scheme.

								
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