Purulia district,which Congress leader Rahul Gandhi last year termed as the worst NREGA performer where people were worse off than those in Orissas Kalahandi area,has since turned the corner.
The district has provided maximum number of jobs under the NREGA in the state,making a dramatic turnaround since April 2009,when Rahul visited the area.
Purulia has provided 39 days of employment to 1.49 lakh families till December last year,the highest such figure in West Bengal.
A total of 1319 families have got 100 days of jobs,district administration officials said.
Around Rs 70.19 crore has been spent on wage and durable assets creation. It was achieved by a team work of administrative officials and political functionaries,besides demand for work by the villagers, Purulia DM Avanindra Singh.
Planning,fast payment of wages,transparency,regular monitoring,awareness-building among villagers by the government and civil society groups and innovation have brought about the achievement, he said.
Purulia has been chronically plagued with poverty and Maoist insurgency,leading to a high level of migration for work among its backward and tribal population.
Rahuls comments about the poverty in Purulia had triggered a war of words with the ruling CPM advising the young Congress MP to visit states ruled by his party where it claimed the situation was worse.
District officials said NREGA programmes here were meant to create assets like tanks,ponds,irrigation wells,check dams,roads,social forestry,farmland creation and wage employment to the villagers.
Maoists presence has affected eight out of 20 blocks Arsha,Bundwan,Jhalda-I,Jhalda-II,Baghmundi,Balarampur,Barabazar and Manbazar-II¿ in Purulia where the average number days for which work was provided under the NREGA this year is 38 compared to 24 days last year,Singh said.
The two top performing gram panchayats include Garsika,with 87 days of work,and Baghmundi,which provided 59 days of work,officials said.
With the Opposition posing a serious challenge to Left Front-ruled government since the 2009 Lok Sabha polls,a competition for developmental work among the political functionaries cutting across party lines have only helped matters.
We are always for development. NREGA work in Purulia shows our commitment to develop the district by providing wages and assets to the rural families, sabhadhipati of Purulia Zilla Parishad Bilasi Bala Sahis said.
A black spot in an otherwise success story is the Arsha block where,Sahis said there have been problems in running the management of panchayat samiti leading to delay in allotment of works.
Uttam Banerjee,the Opposition leader in Zilla Parishad,alleged CPM leaders have been blocking development which they used to do in other places. Purulia district has been affected by large-scale migration of people for work to eastern districts like Burdwan and Hooghly during sowing and harvest season.
To stop villagers from going to work with agents in return for advanced salary payment,the project officer of District NREGA Cell,Rahul Mazumdar,said money was disbursed directly to the gram panchayats after regular meetings with bank officials. It helped the villagers to get quick payment.
In the gram panchayats where success has been achieved in NREGA implementation,there is a remarkable level of awareness among the people. Apart from the administrative initiatives,several civil society organisations work as a watchdog and have helped educate villagers about the NREGA and their rights, the DM said.