Survey covering 23 districts of the State reveals that the Act has largely been a failure

Before the NREGA was brought into force by the UPA government, Rozgaar Yaatras (employment rallies), demanding work, were being organized across the country.

They all featured a folk-ish song “mere liye kaam nahi” (no work for me). Five years down the line, with the act being hailed as a success in several states, the soundtrack for the unemployed rural masses of Madhya Pradesh remains unchanged, as voluntary organizations allege.

Accroding to an April-2009 survey conducted in 23 districts of the state, covering 2765 rural respondents belonging to 112 villages, the implementation of the act has largely been a failure.

This is reflected in allegations like extremely low number of people applying for work under the scheme, work not being given within the stipulated 15 days, delayed payment of wages, non-payment of unemployment allowance and compensation among other things.

Further, the new arrangement, since October 2008, of wage payment through post-office savings accounts, has also been ineffective as compared to the previous, corruption-ridden payment arrangement through village Panchayats. The survey, conducted by 17 rural organizations, reveals that only 17% of the studied sample managed to get accounts opened at their nearest post-office.

The state CEO for NREGA, Rashmi Arun Shami, while agreeing that not everything is right with its implementation, contends not everything is wrong either.

“Look at the scale of the act, its massive. Flawless implementation of the act will take time,” says Shami. “I am not saying everything is perfect. We are looking at irregularities and addressing wherever they are discovered. Banks and post offices have started recruiting additional staff for managing NREGA accounts. It might take some time,” she says.

Delayed payments for over 10 months have also been alleged in the Chapwaar village of Dindori district. The block CEO V. T. Shukla says, “Evaluation of the work had not been sent in time, now that it’s done, the payments will be made as soon as possible.”

InRewamuhari village of Hoshangabad district people were not given work for almost five months.

“When they asked for unemployment allowance, the upper caste village Sarpanch, along with the block CEO, threatened them and took their thumb-marks on a plain paper to later prove they did not demand work,” says Param Sukh of MP Dalit Aadivasi Sangh, an organization working for the rights of the scheduled castes.

“The matter has been investigated into and the district collector found that these people did not come for work even after being called repeatedly,” says Ms. Shami.

The state government’s Kapildhara scheme, merged with the NREGA, is proving to an environmental liability for villages with low ground water levels, called “dark areas.” The recharge structures, to be built alongside wells dug under the scheme, are rarely if ever built. Most villagers do not even know if there is such a provision for wells dug under the scheme.

“It is a stage-based process,” says Ms. Shami. “The digging of wells has been completed and in the second phase, the recharge structures will also be completed. These wells are surely a better arrangement than the existing tube-wells in those areas,” she says.

Keywords: Madhya PradeshNrega