Statistics furnished by the Union Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj pertaining to Dakshina Kannada showed that the number of cards issued in the last four years had steadily increased from 5,487 in 2008-09 to 94,967 till February this year.

Poor response to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) and misuse of job cards have forced the Dakshina Kannada Zilla Panchayat to cancel more than 17,000 cards in the last four months. With the process of verification of cards still in progress, officials said the cancellations could increase to 40,000.

Statistics furnished by the Union Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj pertaining to Dakshina Kannada showed that the number of cards issued in the last four years had steadily increased from 5,487 in 2008-09 to 94,967 till February this year.

Despite the rise in figures in the last few years, officials involved in the implementation of the scheme constantly grappled with low public interest in the MNREGA jobs. In 2008-09, just 512 people sought work under the scheme, while only 20.01 per cent of the cards-holders demanded work in 2011-12.

In the current fiscal, so far only 749 people had sought jobs. This fell way below the State average of 29.86 per cent of job card-holders choosing to work.

Explaining what called for the cancellation of job cards, N.C. Seetamma, scheme implementing officer in the district, said a card could be cancelled if it was being misused or transferred to another for a fee, if the holder had migrated, or had not sought work in the last five years.

“People don’t seem to be using these cards. It could either be because they would rather work on their fields, or they just didn’t know what to do with the cards,” she said. Low wages (Rs. 155 a day) could also be a deterrent because private work paid more, she said.

On what led to the surge in applications in the last few years, MNREGA Ombudsman for Dakshina Kannada Seena Shetty said: “People thought it was like a ration card, and applied for it.”

A case in point was Sundara Madiwala of Polali, Bantwal taluk, who applied for a card four years ago after a teacher in the village told him he could earn money through that. However, in these four years, he hadn’t applied for a job even once. “I would rather earn twice the money working for private contractors,” he said.

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