On December 7th, 17 workers from Jagabor in Dungarpur (Rajasthan) received Rs 375 each as unemployment allowance under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
For these workers, the satisfaction of getting the money was compounded by the fact that they were paid their dues after almost one year and after lodging protests.
What makes them the lucky few, however, is that not many rural poor in the country actually get this allowance.
Data from the ministry of rural development shows that of the 16.9 lakh days for which the states have to pay unemployment allowance, they have paid only for 1,304 days and the total amount doled out was a measly R24,119.
Under MGNREGA, a worker not provided work within 15 days of submitting the demand is entitled to a daily unemployment allowance of not less than one-fourth of the wage rate for the first 30 days.
According to a ministry official, the figures shown as the 2010-11 figures include several in which allowance hasn’t been paid for years after discounting the many cases that go unreported. For example, 6.17 lakh households are still waiting for employment this fiscal, whose man-days could be much more than the 16.9 lakh days.
The numbers are revealing: Uttar Pradesh that has to pay for 4.3 lakh days has paid only for 67 days. Bihar, J&K and Mizoram has not paid for a single day though they should have paid for 2.1, 1.2 and 1.9 lakh days respectively.
Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, shows the unemployment allowance due as zero. But here also there is a demand-supply a gap of 25.7 thousand households. “There are zero cases as we are providing work to everyone who applies. These 25,000 could be those households who are still under the 15-day period,” Reddy Subrahmanyam, AP principal secretary, rural development said.
Sources say it is the lack of information about rules and the courage to question officials that makes unemployment allowance most neglected.
The workers of Dungarpur who got the allowance had the backing of NGO Wagad Mazdoor Kisan Sangathan and the collector of Dungarpur Purna Chandra Kishan.
“The 17 lakh cases are proof that people want to work but the governments are not providing it. This is another reason why NREGA allocations find few takers,” Ruchi Gupta of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan says.