Eighty five men from village Poula of Akrani taluka in tribal Nandurbar sought work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in October last year.
In December, they wrote to Nandurbar deputy collector and the local tehsildar saying that their village has not received any job orders in 2017. Six months on, the wait continues for these tribal farmers. Data on MNREGA shows that while 35.01 lakh people demanded work in 2017-18 till now, 29 lakh people were offered employment across Maharashtra. Of them, 18,624 were disabled.
Rolled out in 2005, the MNREGA is a livelihood security scheme of the government which assures paid work for at least 100 days. A person can opt for physical intensive work within 5 km of his home. If work is not provided in 15 days, each labourer is supposed to get unemployment allowance. MNREGA data, however, shows that only 1.61 lakh families completed 100 days’ of labour. It is not just the delay in work sanction but for those waiting since a year for work, the unemployment allowance has not been paid.
Data analysed by Jan Arogya Abhiyan showed that the scheme witnessed a cut of Rs 19 crore this year in the state budget.
In 2017-18, the budget estimate for MNREGA was Rs 4,257 crore, with the revised estimates putting it at Rs 4,657 crore, but for 2018-19, it has been capped at Rs 4,637 crore, according to the budget estimates.
MNREGA data showed that the work completion rate has declined over the years as well — from 90.4 per cent of 7.2 lakh work orders in 2014-15 to 34.4 per cent completion rate of 2.3 lakh work orders in 2016-17 and 13.11 per cent of 3 lakh work orders in 2017-18. Among the 85 who have been waiting for work from Pouli village is Kisan Valvi. He has a stock of three quintal jowar left. “It will not last long for my family,” he says. Valvi claims he has been waiting for labour under MNREGA since January 2017.
“In 2016, I came to know that my name is in the work list even though I was given no work. Money was deposited in my name but not in my account,” says Valvi. He filed an RTI query and got a list of 340 villagers who were paid for labour under the scheme in 2016. “I physically verified with each villager whose named on the list. Only 30 had actually done work. Rest of all the names had neither received money nor done work, but money was deposited in their name,” Valvi says.
In 2017, the villagers complained to district office. A report submitted by tehsildar, a social worker and sub-district magistrate in Nandurbar stated that half the labourers mentioned in MNREGA list in Pouli village never received work. A recovery of the amount by state government is yet to be done. District officials said that no suspensions in the alleged scam have been ordered.
According to collector Mallinath Kalshetty, the payment mode was shifted from post office to bank accounts after realising there were malpractices at the taluka and village level.
Chaudhary Gavya Padvi, who is also among the 85 waiting for work, has a family of eight. “I last worked under this scheme in 2006. I got Rs 900 for 13 days of work after a long delay. So I stopped working,” says Padvi.
This is the scenario in other parts of the district. Noorji Vasave, a tribal from Chimalkhedi village, close to river Narmada, said the last work tribals were given in his village was to construct road in 2015. “The money never reached our bank accounts,” he said.