National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was extended to Chittorgarh and Pratapgarh districts on April 1, 2007. Before this, NREGA was initiated in six districts of the State in the year 2005-06. The organisation had experiences from these districts to share and accordingly a press conference was organised on Chittorgarh district headquarters on March 28. The following day, that is, on March 29, a district level convention was organised at Gora Badal Stadium. Nearly 6,000 women and men from all the development blocks of the district participated in the convention. Mr Tapan Bhattacharya of Mandhyanchal Forum presided over while Dr PL Agarwal, District Magistrate of Chittorgarh, was the Chief Guest. After the convention, a procession was taken out from the convention venue to the office of the District Magistrate where a delegation of processionists handed over a memorandum to the District Magistrate pledging its positive cooperation.
After this, block level training programmes were organised in 11 development blocks – Kapasan, Rashmi, Gangrar, Chittorgarh, Nimbaheda, Bhadesar, Badi Sadadi, Chhoti Sadadi, Pratapgarh and Arnod – of Chittorgarh and Pratapgarh districts between August 18 and September 24, 2007. A total of 1,007 mukhiyas (panchayat heads), including 293 women, were imparted training. In addition, 12 workers of Sanjhi Pahal, a district level network of NGOs, imparted training to the mates in six development blocks under Mate Training Programme.
The organisation is carrying out extension activities about various processes, provisions and facilities under the programme. Alongside, information is being disseminated to motivate women mates, their tasks and processes involved in payments. The network has formed coordination committees at the gram panchayat, development block and district level for improvement in the implementation of the Act. All the trained mukhiyas are making efforts for better implementation of the Act. Efforts are on to remove shortcomings in the implementation of the programme and often the network members have to resort to dharnas, submission of memoranda and social audit.
One significant intervention of the organisation has been in delayed payment of wages under NREGA. According to the provisions, wages should be paid within 15 days of completion of the work. But in 11 blocks of the organisation’s operational area NREGA labourers were not paid their wages even after the passage of six months. To get rid of this problem, the organisation held a one-day public hearing under the banner of Mewar Jan Adhikar Manch, Sanjhi Pahal and Yuva Pairvikar Manch. The participating labourers presented their problems like less payment of wages and non-entries in muster rolls. The participants marched to the office of the District Magistrate and handed a memorandum to him. Quickly acting, the District Magistrate released wages worth Rs 9 crore in the 11 blocks from where the participants had come.
Problems galore in NREGA implementation. The people’s organisations are working hard to tackle these problems. A case in point is Nilod Gram Panchayat of Bhopal Sagar development block of Chittorgarh district. The sarpanch husband used to mount pressure on the labourers to work on his land, employ labourers on her own will and used machines. When the labourers raised voice against this, he dismissed 50-60 labourers, who complained to the sub-divisional official. Reacting on this, the sarpanch husband dismissed 30 more labourers. Now all the labourers sat on a dharna at the NREGA site. The officials from panchayat samiti, gram panchayat and Navachar Sansthan secretary reached the venue and called the sarpanch husband. The records were full of discrepancies – no entries were made in job cards, names of people who never worked were entered in muster roll and those who worked were not entered in it. The employment assistant of Nilod gram panchayat was suspended and all the labourers were put back on work. A vigilance committee was formed and imparted training. Later the vigilance committee members started monitoring the work and this led to considerable improvement in the situation. A few members asked for information under ‘right to information’, but they drew blank.
The organisation is making efforts to solve NREGA related problems in collaboration with people ’s organisations. It has raised tools like right to information and advocacy at the state level. It has forged relations with monthly NREGA Monthly Dialogue Programme of the State Government. Representatives of Mewar Jan Adhikar Manch, Yuva Pairvikar Manch, Sanjhi Pahal and the organisation itself participate in this. Some critical issues emerging in NREGA implementation are: poor status as far as processes, provisions and basic facilities are concerned; job card entries; group work; measurement book; ‘deduction of wages’; late payment of wages; etc. As a reaction to these efforts, fake suits have been slapped against some members of the forum to curb the efforts. Additionally, local politicians are sheltering the culprits to suppress the voice of the poor and backward people. But the members of the forum are full of confidence and have got some successes too.