|Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze
New Delhi, Sept. 27: Only eight states have given the mandatory unemployment allowance to workers registered under the rural employment scheme over the past four years and even that for just a fraction of the time they went jobless.
The problem adds to the list of complaints about the Congress-led UPAs showpiece welfare programme. It has come to light in statistics collated by the Union rural development ministry, which runs the scheme.
According to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, if employment is not provided to a registered worker within 15 days of the receipt of the job application, the government must pay the daily unemployment allowance.
The allowance is fixed by states, but it should not be less than a fourth of the wage for the first 30 days of unemployment and half of the sum beyond it.
Left-ruled Kerala and Bengal are among the few states that have paid the dole, though the number of recipients is too less.
Only nine persons have got the allowance in Bengal and one in Kerala. The figure for Tripura, also ruled by the Left, is 63. Seventy-eight persons have received it in Jharkhand, 543 in Orissa, 679 in Karnataka, 1,144 in Maharashtra and 1,074 in Madhya Pradesh. The scheme aims to employ four crore people each year.
The problem was one of the many raised by Jean Dreze and Aruna Roy, seen as one of the schemes architects, at a news conference today.
The duo — members of the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC) and the Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC), the apex body monitoring the plans implementation — have written to the ministry highlighting the lapses. They see the flaws as signs of the authorities trying to avoid accountability.
Non-payment of unemployment allowance is only one manifestation of the general resistance of both central and state governments to any sort of accountability under the NREGA, defeating the whole purpose of the act, the letter says.
Dreze and Roy turned the spotlight on another problem: delay in payment of wages. You (the ministry) could equally have asked how many workers have ever been compensated for delays in wage payments. To my knowledge, there is only one case of such compensation (in Jharkhand), even though delays in wage payments have caused immense hardships to NREGA workers in the last two years. Similarly, there are only two cases of any government officer for dereliction of (NREGA-related) duty.
The UPA government has ruined its own achievement by resisting accountability in its implementation, the letter said.
Dreze alleged that CEGC had been reduced to a body whose advice was ignored, and said he hoped to raise the problems at the NAC. A series of measures are required if the gains made through NREGA are to be preserved, the letter said.