Job cards, only for kin
Ram Naresh, Ram Manohar, Mamta and Shyam Sunder all have job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and each of them has withdrawn over Rs 2 lakh under the scheme in the past year.india Updated: Jan 09, 2012 23:00 IST
Ram Naresh, Ram Manohar, Mamta and Shyam Sunder all have job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and each of them has withdrawn over Rs 2 lakh under the scheme in the past year.
This would have been a commentary on the positives of the implementation of the rural scheme in the small village of Kolawal Raipur, Banda, but is instead a story of how the scheme is being used to bungle money.
Under the scheme, one person per family is allowed to get 90 days of work in a year. But, in this case all the three people mentioned above are relatives of a village pradhan.
"Work under NREGS is distributed like sweets in this village, but only to those who are close to the pradhan's family. Everyone in her house, excluding her husband, has a job card and are regularly withdrawing funds without moving a limb. The violations are gross," said Raja Bhaiya, a social activist who runs the NGO Vidya Dham Samiti in the Bundelkhand district.
Those who actually work and complete it under the scheme allege that they are not paid. "A well was constructed in my field under the plan but once my brothers and I completed work on it we were told that no money would be paid to us. They said the reward for the work was the well in our field," said Ram Milan Yadav, a farmer who owes the cooperative bank Rs 70,000.
An inquiry by officials into the allegations has revealed that the pradhan's family has indeed misused funds and allocated job cards to those who don't qualify.
"The rot is very deep. Old wells are being passed off as new constructions. Money for constructions that were never done has been withdrawn. Villagers still don't have toilets in their house but on paper all of them do. Everyone wants a bit of the money without doing any work," said SC Rai, project director, ministry of rural affairs, Banda.
The pradhan and her family refused to make any comment.
But officials say, despite such complaints villagers are not comfortable complaining against the pradhan. "I have been encouraging the villagers to come to me with such complaints. If two-thirds of the village population come to me with a request to remove the pradhan, we can take action but most villagers don't want to take this action and end up getting exploited," said Sheetal Verma, district magistrate, Banda district.
But in the six months since Verma has been posted in the district, not a single request has been made to remove a pradhan of any village in the district.
While the official enquiry has found the pradhan in this one village guilty of misuse of funds, it's the same story in other villages.
"What we need is an overhaul. We work with scores of villages and see the same thing everywhere. Those with power have started to think that they can get away with siphoning off funds. This attitude needs to change," Bhaiya added.
This is a part of one of a three-part series on the misuse of MGNREGS in Uttar Pradesh. The series uses one small village as a case study to explore the number of ways in which the scheme has been misused.