Officials siphoning off NREGS money

Officials siphoning off NREGS money
Dr Sandeep Pandey

[To read the related posting in Hindi language, please click here]

The Gram Pradhans in Miyaganj Block of Unnao District, where a social audit of NREGS is going on presently, have started admitting one after another that the officials take anywhere from 15 to 30% money as commissions before releasing the funds for the works.

First they were complaining about how the workers don't complete their due measurement of work, for example digging 100 cu. ft. of earth, to become eligible for full payment of Rs. 100 per day and how they have to make adjustments.

But when it was pointed out to them that if this was the case then the number of days of work shown on muster roll should have been less than the actual days of work performed. But in panchayat after panchayat a common complaint has been that the workdays of workers are exaggerated on muster rolls as well as on job cards.

The days have been fudged essentially to siphon out money from the accounts of gram panchayats. But the Gram Pradhans are afraid of speaking out openly because the officials will become vindictive towards them if such a complaint was made. This is yet another example of how it is the bureaucracy which dominates and manipulates the people's representatives in our democracy.

Gram Pradhan Hari Prasad of Shirsh Kanhar complained that sometimes the officials withdraw money and the work never gets performed.

It is precisely to prevent the Block level officials like the BDOs, JEs and VDOs from taking out money from the share of the panchayats that a decision has been taken by the government to transfer the money directly from the District to the Gram Panchayat accounts and to open bank accounts for workers for direct transfer into them.

Gram Pradhan of Nurullanagar Samim, who is uneducated, today admitted that he just signs wherever he is told to. He works for a powerful family in the village and his Village Development Officer completes all the documents for him. It is quite obvious that the Pradhan of this panchayat is not in control of the affairs here.

Chandrika, the son of Gram Pradhan of Village Panchayat Sindhari Khurd, Smt. Shyama, threatened and misbehaved with the social audit team in his panchayat. According to the villagers no work under NREGS has been performed here.

A major discrepancy found in the muster rolls obtained under RTI Act, was the absence of any financial approval for the works having been shown to be already performed. The villagers had very little knowledge about the Act. In most panchayats the job cards were distributed to the villagers just before the arrival of the social audit teams there. The names of women were missing from the job cards as a result of which women were not able to stake claim to perform work under the scheme. According to NREGA the names of all adult family members desirous of working should be there on the cards.

The name of the Gram Pradhan of Village Panchayat Akbarpur as well as his five brothers and one sister-in-law figured in the recently concluded BPL survery even though the family is quite well off.

The Asha health workers of the Janani Suraksha Yojana today contacted the social audit team on their own initiative and complained about how they were paid only Rs. 450 per delivery as opposed to the stipulated Rs. 600. The beneficiary mother also has to pay Rs. 600-700 to receive her share of Rs. 1400 from the health centre. Even to receive their reduced amounts the women are made to run a number of times by the health centre staff. If one doesn't pay the commission the amount due is not released. Yesterday evening Bina w/o Suresh resident of Hyderabad town area in Unnao Dist. delivered a baby at home because the Miyaganj Primary Health Centre turned her away during the day. One staff at this health centre Pankaj makes the Asha health workers stay till late evening or sometimes night to release their payments causing them inconvenience in returning to their homes.

Dr Sandeep Pandey

[Author is a noted social activist, recepient of Ramon Magsaysay Award (2002) for emergent leadership and heads National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) in India]

[To read the related posting in Hindi language, please click here]

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