Job guarantee scheme comes a cropper in Bihar

December 18th, 2008 - 12:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Karpi (Bihar), Dec 18 (IANS) Maheshar Manjhi and Karu Paswan, both landless labourers in a Maoist-hit Bihar village, are fed up with the state government. They have been given less than 20 days’ work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in place of the promised 100 days.Manjhi is in his late 40s and Paswan in his early 30s. Both are Dalits and job card holders under NREGS. But they have been waiting for months to get some work under the scheme.

“We were provided about 10 days work under the NREGS before monsoon and nearly a week earlier this year. After that no work was provided to us. The scheme is running on paper only,” said Manjhi, resident of a village under the Karpi block in Arwal district, known as a hotbed of Maoist insurgency.

About 120 km from state capital Patna, Arwal was one of the 16 districts where NREGS was funded by the Bihar government under its State Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

“Time and again local government officials and elected members of panchayat assured us that they would provide work under NREGS. They never say no but forget soon,” Manjhi told IANS.

The situation is similar for the poorest of the poor in neighbouring blocks of Gaya, Aurangabad and Jehanabad districts.

Dhaneri Ram, another Dalit and landless labourer, who is in his 50s, said that neither his son nor his wife - all job card holders - was provided work for more than a month in the last one year. “It was difficult to get work,” Ram said.

In the last six months, many job card holders have held protest demonstrations against the state government’s failure to implement the scheme effectively.

Bihar’s Rural Development Minister Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha confirmed to IANS: “The government had managed to provide only 25 days of work on an average to job card holders against the stipulated 100 days.”

Official sources in the rural development department said that till date the state government has managed to provide work to 2.35 million of the rural unemployed, though job cards have been distributed to 9.19 million people.

Kushwaha also admitted that the state government had not paid any compensation to anybody in the last two years because he or she had not been given work, though that has been prescribed in the NREGS guidelines.

It was announced by the government that anyone with a job card could claim unemployment allowance in case he or she was not provided work within 15 days from the date of application.

“Till now, not a single person seeking unemployment allowance has approached any block development officer in the state. How can we give compensation?” Kushwaha said.

The central government’s Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, who hails from Bihar, has repeatedly said during his visits to the state that “the scheme was not implemented properly in Bihar and very few people have been provided work”. He pointed out that the state government was legally bound to implement the scheme.

According to a World Bank report, nearly 40 percent of Bihar’s population lives below the poverty line and hundreds of thousands of poor people migrate to other states to earn a livelihood.

The job card scheme was expected to check the migration by ensuring at least 100 days of work in a year.

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