Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Niyamgiri Times : A truth of NREGS

A 'JCB' rests in one corner of
Bissamcuttack during the day

The same 'JCB' works
hard under the shrouds of night

What does a JCB have to do with NREGS? It does. In fact, it (or should we call it – she), she is the biggest beneficiary of NREGS – at least in this part of Orissa.

Contractor gets contract from government under NREGS scheme. Ideally, under the scheme a contractor needs to get his work done from job card holders from the village. A beautiful model!

Some courageous journalism and putting 2 and 2 together reveals the following modus operandi-

  • 1. Contractor gets contract.
  • 2. Goes to village, employs people for 7 (give-or-take-a-few) days.
  • 3. Takes the Job Cards under the pretext of some requirement for disbursing the money.
  • 4. Villagers get some money. But, don’t get the job cards back.
  • 5. At night, the contractor brings up his A-game and A-grade worker – the JCB, which in a night does work equivalent to 10-15 man-days.
  • 6. Work gets booked under NREGS.
  • 7. JCB (read, contractor earns the proceeds)
I know, some readers have found loopholes and IT process which won’t allow this to happen. But, the villagers are so gullible that this actually happens. A few days back, someone came to Bardaguda village and demanded Rs 500 per household in the name of Forest Department (or was it NABARD), and went away with the money.

For those who still refuse to belive this is happening in OUR India… have a look at 10 loopholes of NREGS implementation and a silver lining.

But, I say this is just 'A' truth. I have started believing that there are no absolute truths. Another truth is, the canteen owner (where I have my daily meals) does not get any interested people to work. Imagine! People living below-poverty-line for years, refuse to work as waiters in canteen at Rs 6000 per month! Their logic is simple. When they get foodgrains at Rs 2/kg, what is the need to sweat!

Yet another truth is that my interviews with village households reveals that their incomes have increased by Rs 1000 in the few months of implementation of NREGS. [Rs 1000 per annum is a significant income for these families with annual earnings of Rs 10,000 or less]

So is NREGS good? Orissa has been a case study in poor implementation of NREGS, still, it has helped the tribals to some extent.

There are more questions than answers. And, I am looking for questions, not answers.

Feb 16, 2010 Bissamcuttack, Orissa. TAS Rural Stint, Harsha Trust


  1. That's informative. It feels great to read about things at the grassroots.

  2. you should try and send this to some magazine maybe.

  3. What is most interesting is the labour rate that has shot up because of NREGS.....also the rates for raw materials for example stones (nearly doubled here when NREGS work has started).....which makes it next to impossible to get any other work done!

  4. @Anurag: I am amazed by the kind of insights the ground level people have.
    @charanya: really? thanks!
    @jayant: True. Everything is so inter-related that you move one inch here and something moves 10feet somewhere else. :)
    What pains me is that some schemes are making people go away from work... its like giving free fish instead of teaching how to fish...

  5. Firstly, probably you are trying to question the implementation and by mistake you questioned MGREGS itself. The scheme in itself might have some loopholes but as a concept it definitely is bona fide.
    Secondly, I am shocked by your 'another truth'. If it weren't your direct personal experience, I would have probably put it as one of the general figments of imaginations. So they are afraid of getting APL through the jobs, if I understand correctly?
    Also I agree with Charanya, you should get it published and also sent it to some social-audit NGOs like MKSS.

  6. Gud work Mukund. If possible report this to the highest level. Shoot a letter to the cheif minster' office if possible .

  7. @Sudhanshu, I re-read... I'm not questioning the concept here... though it is question-able... but thats another debate.
    On the second part... its not about shifting to APL, they just don't see the need to work if their plates and glasses(alcohol) are filled.