Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Workers fail to get their dues under MGNREGS in Chhattisgarh

The MGNREGS scheme has many flaws, a whistleblower finds out only to be harassed

Avdhesh Mallick / Sarguja

Prakash Gupta of village Bilsapur, Block Batauli District Surguja in Chhattisgarh complained that labourers who worked for the construction of road under Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) have been paid less than the provision of Rs 100 per day. An enquiry by the administration followed.

Subsequently, after the formal complaint, the village-sarpanch alleged that the special police station of Batuli was harassing Gupta and his father and were also abused. As a result the whistle blower, who should have been hailed, is now facing threats of being arrested by police.

One and half months ago labourers of Bilaspur got their payment which is less than the stipulated amount under the law. Gupta saw the plight of the labourers and interviewed some of them and uploaded it on the net. In the interview, the affected workers said that they were paid at the rate of Rs 70 per day whereas the provision is for Rs 100 per day.

A labourer Basant Lal said that he worked for 42 days but instead of getting Rs 4200 but he was paid only Rs 2400. He said that after getting the payment when he reached his home, Binod Lakda, the Munshi came to his house and took away Rs 1100 as commission, saying that he had maintained the attendance and a share had to be given to him from the earnings. Similar was the complaint of another worker Suruj Mohan who worked for 15 days and got only Rs 1050, instead of Rs 1500.

Gupta said in year 2009-10 government had sanctioned Rs 4 lakh 42 thousand for the construction of road and mud works under MNREGS. In 2011 payment of workers was made. The department had sanctioned Rs 1.80 lakh and when the payment has made Rs. 38,500 of the workers remained unpaid.

When Gupta raised the issue, administration sent an enquiry committee to their village panchayat for further inspection and verification of the complaint on March 8. The inspection committee, headed by Assistant Project Officer AR Bhagat conducted the inquiry. Statement of 42 people were recorded in the presence of more than 150 villagers. During the enquiry many of the workers who suffered loss claimed that they were paid at the rate of Rs 70 per day which is less than what the law provides. The report is yet to be made public, said Gupta.

One of the member of inspection committee sub-engineer Amarnath Roy said that no wrong has been committed by the department. He said after inspecting the muster-roll and doing evaluation, they sent the money to the post-office. He said some irregularities were found on the muster-roll entry at the Panchayat level and there could be the involvement of Gram Sarpanch and the village secretary which is being verified. Sub-engineer Satyawrat was suspended after allegations of irregularities were found in the work, said Roy.

After the official inspection, the Gram Sarpanch has sent a note to the Special Police Station Batuli and also sent a copy to Ambikapur Police station claiming that the allegations are false.

“Although the Superintendent of Police had assured me that no action will be taken against me and my father until the enquiry is complete, I have apprehensions that I will be targeted because I have risen the matter and those with vested interests was not only powerful but also rich”, said Gupta.

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