(Report) Bundelkhand shows signs of an ailing MNREGA
decade after it was enacted, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment
Guarantee Act (MNREGA) is triggering exactly what it was known to curb: labour
migration to cities. The Panchayati Raj institutions and state bureaucratic
machinery that were intended to play a vital role in executing the programme in
grassroots are the ones muddling it up. With no work for months together – and
blank job cards merely symbolic of the scheme’s existence on paper – the
villagers are heading to cities in search of livelihood. Khabar Lahariya brings
you the ground report from Chitrakoot district in Bundelkhand that was brought
under the 100-day employment scheme in the first phase of its inception.
It has been five years of shuttling between hope and despair
for the residents of Khajuriha Kala village in Ramnagar block of Chitrakoot.
Their blank NREGA job cards tell the story of their workless days spent in the
hope of finding work under the scheme. Their last resort is to migrate to cities
in search of work and livelihood for families. Kallu Devi, Hiramani and Kamlesh
Kumar have taken the fight to the office of the pradhan, who they say is
responsible for not sanctioning any work.
‘We were issued job cards, but never allotted any work under the scheme. Now
we have no option but to move to cities to find work. How else will we feed our
family,’ Hiramani says.
The pradhan Rukmani Devi, who has been operating since five
years now, says the villagers are very much involved with drainage construction
in village. But the villagers, who last took complaints to her on July 5 said
they are only given hollow assurances of upcoming work that never really comes
‘Every time we go the pradhan with our appeals, we are either
refused for any work or told about some upcoming work … it has been like this
since five years,’ Hiramani adds. Even as the block development officer (BDO)
Rakesh Soni has assured an inquiry into the case, many others like Hiramani have
already been pushed to urban centres as labour on construction sites. Other than
non-allotment of work, villagers have also pointed to non-payment of wages and
non-issuance of job cards which Khabar Lahariya has constantly reported about.
The NREGA was passed in 2005 to guarantee 100 days of wage
employment to rural households through participation in unskilled manual work.
The architecture of the UPA-flagship programme laid significant onus on gram
panchayats that implement at least 50 per cent of the works in terms of cost.
The Act stipulates that payments are made to workers within 15 days of
completion of work. With the NDA government coming into power last year, the
scheme has undergone several budgetary cuts and tweaks. According to reports by
the ministry of rural development for 2014-15, nearly 72 percent of the total
wages disbursed under NREGA were delayed.
From the lowest echelon of the elected representative to the
higher bureaucracy – problems ranging from corruption to poor planning and the
arbitrary management of the scheme have crippled the potentially valuable
measure to provide sustenance to the rural poor. While debates on the efficiency
of the scheme will continue over time, poor accountability and nexus at the
ground level is ailing the social security scheme.
The Socio-Economic and Caste Census released by the
government earlier this month tell us why poor implementation in broken social
security schemes should bother us. The census, carried out in 2011-12 in 640
districts, remains silent on migration triggered by NREGA in recent times, but
it does depict that the rural poor have been unable to find jobs that can pull
families out of poverty.