Muralidhara Khajane

‘Though over 62,000 people in the taluk sought jobs this year, only 25,000 of them were lucky’

Panchayat officials are not issuing Form 16 to us, say job applicants

Opening bank accounts is also posing to be a problem to job aspirants

H.D. Kote (Mysore district): The ambitious National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) envisaged by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government to enhance livelihood security by extending at least 100 days of guaranteed employment in every financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual labour, has failed in achieving expected results owing to alleged apathy of both the government and bank officials.

While panchayat officials refuse to issue applications to labourers seeking job (Form 16), banks are not enthusiastic in opening accounts to credit their wages. There are instances of officials in some gram panchayats not disbursing wages even after a lapse of one month. This has created problems for labourers who are seeking jobs in tribal dominated H.D. Kote taluk.

According to Basavaraju of Jeeta Vimukta Karnataka, an organisation working for the welfare of labourers in the taluk, though over 62,000 persons sought jobs under the NREGA, only 25,000 are fortunate enough to get work, the rest of 37,000 have been denied job under one pretext or the other. “Sixty labourers of Yeraganahalli Kaval gram panchayat who have worked for over 19 days in the month of July have not received the wages so far”, he alleged.

Speaking to The Hindu, Chaluvaiah of Yeraganahalli Kaval said officials refused to issue Form 16 as its issuance would make it mandatory for them (officials concerned) to provide job to the applicant within 10 days of his submitting the application. If work is not provided, then the applicant is eligible to get employment allowance. “Fearing that it they issue Form 16 to the applicant, they (applicants) would land the officials concerned in trouble, the officials were forcing candidates seeking jobs to apply for jobs on “plain white sheet of paper”, he revealed.

According to Doddaiah of Antarasante village, officials concerned cite various reasons including scarcity of funds to disburse wages. “We are not in a position to question them as we are might not be provided jobs in the future”, he said. Meanwhile, labourers in N. Belattur alleged that despite issuing job cards, they have not been given jobs despite repeated appeals. Nevertheless job applicants could claim employment allowance if they take acknowledgement from the officials concerned for the application submitted to them on a plain sheet of paper.

“But labourers are not informed about the norms”, regrets a senior official in zilla panchayat. “After taking up the issue with Chief Executive Officer of the zilla panchayat Manjula, who visited Hirehalli recently, gram panchayat officials have started issuing Form 16,” Basavaraj said.

Besides not being issued Form 16, interested persons who are seeking jobs under the NREGA also have another problem. Each of them needs to open a bank account so that their wages can be credited to their account directly. But they are finding it difficult to open accounts in the Cauvery Kalpataru Grameena Bank (CKGB). “To get the wages, we have to open account in the CKGB. But bank officials are not helping us in opening accounts and they are also insisting that we maintain minimum balance in the accounts,” Motaiah of Antarasante alleged.

When contacted a senior official of CKGB admitted that the bank was finding it difficult to open accounts of all interested persons who were approaching them as they were short-staffed. However, he refuted the allegation that the bank staff expects minimum deposit from the labourers. “We are supposed to open ‘no frill accounts’ and opening zero-balance accounts in the name of labourers. It is middlemen who are cheating the labourers to make some easy buck,” he said.

As other banks such as the State Bank of India and the Vijaya Bank had refused to open accounts of persons seeking jobs under the NREGA, the pressure on the CKGB had increased. “We have lost so many customers because of the pressure from the labourers to open accounts. Middlemen who bring labourers to the bank create problems for both the job-seeker and the bank,” he regretted.