Reflections from the ground

PACS encourages voices and opinions from the field which reflect the change process. The most empowering aspect of this exercise has been a strong sense of solidarity and collective voice for entitlements.

Social audit trainings in Jharkhand and Bihar

100 Social Audits are being conducted under MGNREGA Abhiyan in Bihar and Jharkhand to ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of MGNREGA and to ensure that the needs of socially excluded communities are addressed.

The social audit process began with two state-level training of trainers (ToTs), one each in Bihar and Jharkhand to train social activists in the processes of MGNREGA in the states.

The ToT in Jharkhand was conducted in Gumla district in 4-8 September 2012 and in Jehandabad in Bihar in 10-14 September 2012. In both the ToTs, Gurjeet Singh who is the Ombudsman in Jharkhand on MGNREGA was the key resource person. PACS got the support of local authorities to conduct the social audit. 

On the last day of the five day training, a public hearing or Jan Sunwahi was conducted where the findings were presented to local authorities and villagers of the concerned panchayats. These revealed the gaps in the implementation and also the creation of assets in the villages under MGNREGA.

To ensure transparency and accountability of the scheme, PACS has begun a campaign, ‘MGNREGA Abhiyan’ in Bihar and Jharkhand which is a collective intervention of the CSO partners to ensure that critical interventions are identified. These should ideally lead to deliberations to resolve the problem areas.

Looking Beyond Finance

Regular social audits should be conducted on MGNREGA works as per section 17 of the Act. The conventional practice of conducting social audits however gets restricted to discussions on finance and related issues and the financial performance of the schemes becomes a de-facto indicator for performance.

Social Audit in MGNREGA Abhiyan or campaign of PACS will however try to look beyond this conventional approach. The focus in these social audits will be on entitlement access, implementations of key provisions of the Act for job cards, work provision to women and persons with disability, timely payments, provisions for shade, crèche, drinking water etc.

These social audits would also focus upon assessing the aspect of discrimination and inclusiveness of the processes and outcomes of the MGNREGA works.

Through the Abhiyan, PACS also wants to leave behind a legacy of empowered community based resource persons who can take these processes further and beyond PACS.

Training of Trainers

To kick start the social audit process, the two Training of Trainers in Bihar and Jharkhand trained activists who will in turn train and create a cadre of 250 community based individuals to conduct social audits in the field.

Totally 50 social audits in each state will be conducted in Jharkhand and Bihar in October-November 2012. Based upon the results, learnings and experiences of the Abhiyan, it will be expanded to other states in the future.

The process

The five day training consisted of two days of classroom learning followed by two days of field visits to various villages to conduct the social audits and find out the gaps in implementation of the Act. The fifth day was reserved for public hearing or Jan Sunvahi, conducted before the panchayats office bearers, villagers and other functionaries to present the findings.

The public hearings after the social audits in two panchayats of Gumla district in Jharkhand and two panchayats in Jehanabad district in Bihar revealed gaps in almost all the areas. Gaps like job cards not issued, lack of work provision to women and persons with disability, late or no payments, no provisions for work site facilities like shade, crèche, drinking water etc.

In the social audit, an important component is preparing resource maps. This reveals the assets which have been created under MGNREGA and where they have been created. The audits also revealed whether these assets like lakes, water trenches, wells and brick roads are accessible to people belonging to socially excluded communities. Social audits also make villagers aware of their rights and entitlements and teach them ways to obtain their rights.

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