KARNATAKA

Machinery being used in works under NREGS

H.S. Narasimha Kumar

Official cites shortage of labour, rocky terrain

Workers get Rs. 69 a day under NREGS, while other jobs fetch them Rs. 120 or moreOfficers are visiting sites to examine whether works are being taken up with machinery alone

DAVANGERE: The very purpose of the ambitious National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) being implemented in 2005 in 200 districts in the country, including five districts of the State, seems to have been defeated owing to the use of machinery. The reason that the officials give for the use of machinery is non-availability of labour and hard soil and rocks in some project areas.

The Government of India passed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 in September 2005 which guarantees 100 days of employment in a financial year to adult members of a rural household.

The objective of the Act is to generate employment through works that develop the infrastructure of that area. The choice of works suggested addresses causes of poverty such as drought, deforestation and soil erosion.

The scheme is not being implemented as per guidelines in Davangere. Use of machinery is prohibited in the scheme as it is meant to generate employment. However, machinery is being vastly used all over the district. Deputy Secretary of the zilla panchayat Rudrappa admitted that there was use of machinery under the scheme. He told The Hindu that there was a provision to use machinery in project areas with hard soil and rocks and which could not be manually done.

He stated that women formed a majority among the labourers. They were unable to do some tasks and hence use of machinery was inevitable.

Prior approval

There was a clause that the implementing officers should mention the use of machinery in the estimate chart and get prior approval. If they bypassed this rule, it was a serious offence, the Deputy Secretary said adding that a team of officers had been visiting sites to examine whether machinery alone was being used to complete works.

He said that eight secretaries of gram panchayats were kept under suspension for dereliction of duty and for failing to carry out the project effectively.

Lukewarm response

The scheme has evoked only lukewarm response from labourers in the district as they get higher wages elsewhere compared to the wages given under the scheme. In Chennagiri and surrounding areas, a labourer working in an arecanut or coconut plantation gets a daily wage of over Rs. 120, while in Harihar and Honnali which are irrigated areas, each labourer gets a daily wage of Rs. 150. Hence, labourers are reluctant to work for Rs. 69 per day under the NREGS. This has prompted many implementing officers at the gram panchayat level and the taluk panchayat level to use machinery to complete works and show progress.

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