Ensure rural job scheme’s success: Chief Justice to judiciary

November 22nd, 2008 - 9:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Nov 22 (IANS) Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan Saturday called upon the judiciary to ensure the successful implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) for empowering the rural people and bridging the rich-poor gap.”As the right to employment has been made a fundamental right of the citizen under the directive principles of the state, the judiciary has the legal and moral obligation to ensure the executive implemented the NREGS Act for guaranteeing livelihood of the rural folk,” Balakrishnan said.

Inaugurating the first two-day regional conference of southern states on ‘Initiative on supporting the NREGS through state legal services authorities’, Balakrishnan said the scheme was one of the most progressive social welfare measures in the country to tackle chronic rural poverty.

“The onus is on the judiciary to intervene and assist the state governments through local bodies for effective implementation of the scheme, launched by the central government in 2005 with huge budgetary support every year,” the chief justice pointed out.

The scheme, a flagship initiative of the Manmohan Singh government, ensures 100 days of employment in a year for one adult from each rural household.

It seeks to ensure livelihood security and improve the purchasing power of rural households through the payment of statutory minimum wages for the work undertaken.

The scheme is also intended to check rural-urban migration and utilise the labour for building public works such as bridges, water-flow channels well, rainwater harvesting units, roads, schools, health centres and granaries.

The potential of the scheme remains only partially fulfilled even three years after its launch. Though there are reports of its success in limiting distress migration in some districts, systemic problems have been coming in the way of realising its full potential in other districts. Implementing agencies, civil societies and the legal system have to be involved to address the issues.

“The primary problem is corruption, lack of transparency in maintaining muster rolls and records of payment of wages. The unholy nexus between local contractors and governmental officials is complicated by social realities such as exploitation of illiterate workers, particularly those belonging to vulnerable sections such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women,” the chief justice lamented.

Referring to media reports and complaints by NGOs on manipulation of wage payment records, Balakrishnan decried the tendency of contractors to not allow workers or social activists access to muster rolls.

The chief justice advised state legal services authorities to generate awareness about the scheme through legal literacy camps and provide a grievance redressal mechanism in the form of Lok Adalats (people’s court) to hear and decide complaints related to the scheme.

The success of a scheme like the NREGS lies on the initiative and efforts of the local community. It is important for individuals to be aware of their entitlements under the scheme and participate in the social audits concerned with the implementation of the same.

“Social audits are not only a method to gauge the implementation of the scheme, but also provide a forum for the beneficiaries to interact with the implementing agencies on the working conditions and the nature of projects to be undertaken. In this way, the government’s role of guaranteeing the employment can act as a precursor to wholesome rural development,” Balakrishnan added.

On this occasion, the chief justice unveiled a specially designed bus, which serves as a court room to conduct the Lok Adalat and take justice and legal literacy to the doorsteps of the people across Karnataka.

Christened ‘Mobile Lok Adalat and Legal Literacy Chariot’, the bus has been designed like a mini-court room with enough space to seat litigants and their lawyers. The Lok Adalat comprises a judicial officer and a conciliator.

Besides solving small and petty cases, the mobile court will help in spreading legal awareness among the masses.

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