A fresh round of confrontation is building up between the Centre and the State Government as a central team sent at the behest of Rahul Gandhi has exposed chinks in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Uttar Pradesh.
In its 126-page report the central team has made startling revelations -even observing that ‘dalit’ pradhans are dummies for those wielding power-the ‘dalit’ bastis are being bypassed in taking up infrastructure schemes and empowerment of women has not been realised.
The State Government’s officers now say that the central team lacked an understanding of the MNREGA and its observations had political overtones. MNREGA had emerged as yet another instrument in consolidation of existing exploitative power structure where upper caste wielded enormous powers, said the central team even observing that the MNREGA had failed to liberate the dalits from the grips of upper caste land owners.
“MNREGA was expected to liberate the dalits from the oppressive grip of the land owing upper castes. But, capture of the panchayat raj institutions by landed elite and the indifferent implementation of the programme have defeated this objective,” says the report.
At a meeting of the District Level Vigilance and Monitoring Committee in Sultanpur on March 26, 2010 Rahul Gandhi had hinted for a central probe amidst objections from the BSP members. A central team led by retired IAS officer and former secretary rural development KB Saxena visited Rae Bareli, Sultanpur, Pratapgarh and Allahabad from May 4 to 10, 2010 and submitted its 126-page report recently.
Report raises serious questions about the uplift of the women in rural areas saying there was participation in the MNREGA. “Women participation is low because the rich farmers in connivance of pradhan and local administration are using women workers as a cheap labour Rs 25 to Rs 40 per day or 4 kg of wheat per day in their private fields. Men are paid Rs 60 to 80 for doing the same work,” says the report.
It points out towards system of 10 per cent cuts at the time of withdrawal of payment by the MNREGA workers. “Pradhan or his representative accompanies workers to bank for filling up their withdrawal slips and identifying the thumb impression. It was confirmed on interrogation of workers- pradhan or his representative kept their wages after withdrawal from bank, deducted 10 per cent and returned rest of the wage amount to workers,” says the report pointing out that the wages were even being paid in installments over a period of one or two months.
Report points out that a huge chunk of money was being spent on works/structures faulty in design and conceptualization. Cases were also found of taking up interlocking brick road works that were not permissible under MNREGA, said the report. It confirmed observations of the purchase of toys with MNREGA funds. The Central Employment Guarantee Council member Sanjay Dixit had exposed this in his report earlier.
The MNREGA labour was being used for personal works in private farms, said the report pointing out that there were irregularities in payment of wages and many complaints regarding the MNREGA in almost all the gram panchayats it had visited.
“However the complaint registers in gram panchayat offices were invariably blank showing no entries. MNREGA workers were not aware of the helpline number or the mechanism for redressal of grievances.
The State Government’s officers are now questioning the Centre’s move to make the report available on the Union Rural Development Ministry’s website before sharing it with the State Government. “It would have been better if the Centre had shared the report with the State Government before making it available for the public,” said Secretary Rural Development Manoj Kumar Singh while speaking to Hindustan Times on telephone.
Singh said the points raised in the reports were already in focus at the State Government level. Two government order (GOs) had been issued last month to ensure that the benefits of the MNREGA t the land reforms beneficiaries and giving 100-day work to the marginalised.