The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS),believed to have the potential to employ over 1 lakh people in labour-intensive works in Pune division,has been able to employ not even a fifth of this in the last 13 months.
Data from the office of the deputy commissioner that heads the Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) in the division reveal that until April last week,only 18,000 people were employed under the scheme,painting a sorry picture of the scheme.
Not only that,the number of people employed in NREGS works in many drought-affected areas has dipped although it is expected to go up with sugar-factories closing down since mid-march.
Many talukas like Jat,Athpadi,Maan,Khatav and Sangola in Pune division,comprising Pune,Satara,Sangli,Kolhapur and Solapur districts,have been worst hit by the drought but NREGS numbers are going down in some of these districts. It was expected that with closure of sugar factories in mid-March,people would be attracted to NREGS works.
Pune,Satara,Solapur have seen a drastic decrease. Mid-April figures show the number dipped in Pune district by 951,Satara by 512 and Solapur by 629. Kolhapur and Sangli,however,recorded a rise of 656 and 1,729 respectively.
The division has 2,771 works in the shelf and many of them are related to drought mitigation. In contrast,Gadchiroli,often cited as a success story for NREGS,has 1,771,a thousand less. Similar is the situation in Gondia,Chandrapur and other districts of Vidharbha,where NREGS employs a large number of people.
Deputy commissioner Pradip Patil blames reluctance of workers to be employed under NREGS for the dipping figures.
We find it difficult to get labourers,given they get double the money from the private sector, he said.
Another reason,a senior official said,was reluctance of some government departments to take up NREGS works. At the grassroot level,the works are undertaken by departments,and no one is ready to take up extra workload, the official stated.
A resident of Kheri village in Ambegaon taluka of Pune district,Budhaji Damse said that for the last two months,around 400 people of his village have been waiting for work to begin. Not only our village but around 10 neighbouring villages have asked for work but the district authorities have not started the process. Also,none of us gets non-employment allowance,although we have been demanding it, he said.
What Damse said about his village is registered in the forms filled while demanding NREGS works. In many cases such demands are,however,not registered.
Under NREGS,it is possible to provide employment to over 30,000 labourers per district if the scheme is implemented properly. But the scheme has been nipped in the bud, said Rajan Kshirsagar,state council member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) who added that gramrozkar sevaks often refuse to fill the form for demanding work.