“If I get even 10 days of work under this scheme, then I would readily delay my train to the Punjab,” affirms Durganand Mandal of Jamua, in a voice vacillating between pathos and desperation.
Mandal is just one among the swarming masses of migrants from North Bihar, who leave their hometown for the better part of the year and travel to Delhi, Punjab or Haryana in search of work.
A people’s social audit undertaken last week by a small band of conscientious citizens, aided by district administration authorities, unravelled the pitiable state of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) implementation in Jamua Block of Araria in Bihar.
An MNREGS social audit carried out by the Jan Jagran Abhiyan in Jamua Block of Araria revealed that for the past four years no initiative to involve civil society in the implementation of the scheme had been taken by the District administration. It was found during the auditing that on December 23 for the first time such an initiative was taken by the district administration.
In fact, Jamua Panchayat, with its population of 9,000-odd people serves as a microcosm of the shambolic state of the MNREGS in Bihar, which cries out for audit in all the 38 districts of the state.
The audit team, in collaboration with the district officials of Araria district, audited 11 works worth Rs. 8.6 lakh at Jamua. It was found that apart from a single completed work, the rest of the 10 have been dragging on for more than a year.
Even more distressingly, it was unearthed during the audit that of the 1,710 job card holders in Jamua, 76 per cent of them did not get even 1 single day of work in 2008-09, while there were numerous cases of delay in wage payments for periods as long as six months.
In fact, Mathuranath Mandal is the sole person in Jamua to get 104 days of work. Mandal’s wife, Asha Devi, was said to have got 104 days work- a claim which was soon proved false when the people, who deposed in the Jan Sunwai (public hearing) said that the wife had only worked for 45 days.
Migration for job
If this is the reality in one Panchayat in one block of a single district in Bihar, then the State government’s claim that the number of the MNREGS work days in Bihar is 34 (which is anyway a low figure), turns out to be based on slender evidence indeed.
This is even more significant for Araria, as it is one of the districts in North Bihar, which witness a massive migration of its populace every year.
Almost half the populace from Jamua looks for work in other States as the MNREGS has miserably failed here.
“The people here would die of hunger if they depended solely on the MNREGS,” says Mr. Jha.
In fact, a paltry Rs. 131 crore was spent for the scheme in the State in 2008-2009.
During his visit to Bihar last month, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia said that funds to the tune of Rs. 2,400 crore was underutilised by the State.
According to N.C. Saxena, former chairman of the Planning Commission, “of every 100 poor people, 10.6 per cent were from Bihar.” Yet records show that the State’s share of the total MNREGS funds for 2008-09 was a mere 4.9 per cent.
Compare a State like Rajasthan, which has done comparatively well in the MNREGS. The State has a poverty share of 3.8 per cent for every 100 poor persons, yet its expenditure under the scheme for 2008-09 was a massive Rs.616 crore.
“I am astonished at how little money trickles into the panchayats in Bihar, whereas in Rajasthan, my panchayat gets around Rs. 3 crore each year to cater to cater to the labour needs of 3,500 job card holders,” reveals Ram Rai, of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangh, Rajasthan and a member of the audit team.