Ranchi, Oct. 22: It may well be the tip of the iceberg, but the state rural development department has acknowledged problems faced by labourers on the website of the Centre’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), displaying 294 “worker complaints” across districts related to corruption and mismanagement.
To bring about a semblance of transparency in the 100-day-a-year livelihood guarantee scheme, under the grievance section of www.nrega.nic.in, Jharkhand displays an online complaint register that records problems, their status and process of disposal. Palamau recorded the maximum number of worker complaints at 67, while Khunti and Ramgarh clocked nothing.
Though in the course of one year, till September 2013, the online register clocked only 294 such complaints, the number spelt an official acceptance of the yawning loopholes in the implementation of MGNREGS.
Irregularities include delayed wages, lack of job cards even after registration, middlemen who charge fees from labourers for registration or take a cut from pay, lack of photographs on the job card, hoax workers on roll, lack of drinking water on the site, absence of shed or signboard, among others. Major culprits include block, gram and zilla panchayat bodies.
As registering a complaint is a tedious process, it is fair to assume that most workers don’t bother.
A labourer has to approach an NGO for him or her to be taken seriously. NGO representatives and the labourer concerned lodge the complaint with the gram panchayat, which forwards it to the block office. Block development officers forward it to the deputy commissioners at district headquarters, who then send it to Jharkhand rural development department, from where the complaints are compiled for the website.
The rural development department, however, does not want to acknowledge that most complaints don’t make it to the website.
“The number of complaints that are registered is not much as everything is in public domain. NGOs are active and help us to address the issues,” secretary of state rural development department Shri Arun said.
NGO workers tell a different story. Arvind kumar, secretary of Badlao Foundation, Jamtara district, says complaints are too many to count. “Numerous job cards are issued by various panchayat bodies but the persons concerned don’t get work. Favoured persons get work and wages, irrespective of job cards. Redress of complaints is both very late and very rare,” he said frankly.
The department secretary, on his part, justified delays “as most blocks of various districts lack Internet connectivity”.
“It takes time for complaints from far-flung areas to reach the respective district headquarters,” he added.
Still, despite the real glitches in the complaint redress system, the very fact that it exists online and can be accessed signals a change from the rot.
For example, Murlidhar Tiwari of village Taalbanna in Sahebganj district gets heard. On August 7, 2013, he had registered a complaint regarding the misappropriation of MGNREGS funds (14021/C/12/2013-MGNREGA). It is telling that his complaint is still pending.