Jharkand could become the first state to lose funds meant for it under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).
Following two murders in 10 days — a worker and an activist in the state were beaten to death for questioning discrepancies in the scheme — the minister for rural development Vilasrao Deshmukh has written a letter to Jharkhand chief minister Arjun Munda calling for immediate action against the culprits and the rural job plan officials responsible.
If the state fails to take action, the strongly worded letter sent on Friday said, the state would not receive its share of MGNREGA funds.
“The letter stopped short of immediate suspension of funds as we thought a strict warning might speed up movement of the state machinery. The minister is taking the matter seriously and failing some action reported from the CM, we would stop the funds,” a senior official said.
“Suspending a lower level official would not do,” he adds.
While Subal Mahato from Bokaro was assaulted for demanding the recently revised wages, Niyamat Ansari from Latehar was beaten for exposing corruption in the R40,000 crore scheme.
To emphasise the seriousness of the issue, department secretary BK Sinha would visit the families of the slain activists this Saturday. “The visit is to take stock of the ground situation and also sends a strong message. The deaths indicate that there is a need to strengthen the social audit system,” Sinha said.
Though activists have been assaulted in other states as well — Mangalram, a Dalit from Barmer in Rajasthan was beaten during a social audit last week — Jharkhand is notorious for such incidents.
In 2008, Lalit Mehta, who revealed widespread corruption under the rural employment scheme, was found murdered in Palamau.