The Gram Mazdoor Sabha (GMS) held a state-wide discussion on Sunday on the ground realities of implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in Gujarat.
Irregularities pertaining to the issue of job cards or failure to honour them,and non-payment of unemployment aid among others were discussed at the meet that saw participation of NGOs from across the state.
Even construction labourers from Panchmahals,Dahod,Tapi,Dangs,Sabarkantha,Banaskantha and Saurashtra were present to talk about the problems at the grassroots level.
Himanshu Banker,general secretary of the GMS,said,Issue of job cards is a fraudulent practice here. Most labourers are denied even job card application forms. The talati of the grampanchayats collect around Rs 100 for
issuing the job cards,which are free and form a part of government aid.
According to Banker,the second major problem is the issue of job cards on ration cards. Although there is no such compulsion,the government issues job cards on ration cards where more than one family is registered. The card can be issued to people on their voter identity cards,tax receipt or even a letter from the talati. Yet,they have made ration cards compulsory. As per law,job cards should be issued per familyfather,mother and children. But in Indian families,one big family comes under one card that gives no help, he added.
Several NGOs working in Gujarat informed that in most districts,the panchayats have swallowed up government grants for the scheme. Moreover,they have been collecting additional money on job cards and issuing none. The labourers are entitled to Rs 100 per day and should be given work for 100 days,but nothing has been followed at all. Till date,they have not received any unemployment aid from the government.
Banker added,The meet was an effort to get support from other NGOs. The findings will be individually discussed again by the NGOs before coming to any conclusion. Thereafter,we will approach the government. From now on,we will hold reviews every month and solve problems at the grassroots level.
CORRUPTION IN SOME DISTRICTS
* PANCHMAHALS: Job card holders were entitled to work from 30-4-07 to 31-3-08. Instead,they were made to work from April 7 to 19,after which the work stopped. The workers were made to sign blank documents where the talati wrote reasons for the absenteeism. When the Gujarat High Court ordered an investigation,the NREGA commissioner dismissed the matter after the talati proved that the labourers were not interested to work. The labourers have not received the payment yet.
* SABARKANTHA: The Sardarnagar village labourers had organised a demonstration against the talati who was collecting Rs 40-Rs 50 for the photographs to be affixed on the job cards. When the labourers came to know that the cards are free,they lodged a complaint. Later,villages like Bhiloda joined the movement and the talati was asked to move out of the village. The money was returned.
* SOUTH GUJARAT: The panchayats,completely ignorant of the scheme,issued three job cards instead of two and that too to only BPL families. The panchayats of Tapi and Navsari still do not know the mechanism of NREGA.
An NGO conducted survey of 42 villages in Tapi and found that only 6,386 families received the cards out of the 12,099 families that needed them. Also,1,098 families were employed for less than 15 days. Workers in Narmada still do not have the cards.
(Source: Gramin Majdoor Sabha & labourers from the participating districts)