The government decision to start a toll free number in Gunjam district in southern Orissa in March this year, to redress the grievances of the beneficiaries of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), has hit the right chord.
Buoyed by its success, the Union Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) has decided to replicate the initiative and set up a call centre/helpline in New Delhi to cater to the complaints from all states and districts of the country.
The proposed communication system aims at connecting all the 6,096 blocks, 614 districts, 34 states and Union Territories.
The NREGA, which is one of the UPA government’s flagship programmes, provides legal guarantee of 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
“The Ganjam district started this unique toll free number. We are now trying for a similar helpline at the national level,” Union Minister of State for Rural Development Chandra Sekhar Sahu told HT.
The minister said organisations with proven track record in the field are requested to submit a detailed proposal for the establishment and management of helpline and call centres for the NREGA.
In Orissa, every district has a four-digit toll free number for receiving information during natural calamities and disasters and the same number is also being used to collect complaints about NREGA.
According to Ganjam collector V. Karthikeya Pandian, the entire process has been outsourced to Nehru Yuva Kendra. NYK volunteers the helpline and provides manpower for quick response teams located in every block to enquire into complaints.
Arun Kumar Satpathy, coordinator of the scheme’s quick response volunteers of Ganjam, said: “We were registering 10 to 12 complaints over phone initially. Because of the rainy season now, the number of complaints has now dropped to seven.
“We are immediately acting on complaints and people are also thanking us for helping in redressing their problems.”
NYK volunteers, who have been trained adequately, work from 8 am to 8 pm. With this toll free number, people don’t have to come all the way to district headquarters or block to lodge their complaints.