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.


 
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Social Audit in Burawan Panchayat

 

Scores of such irregularities were revealed when a social audit was carried out of the flagship government’s MGNREGS in Burawan Panchayat in Jehanabad district of Bihar by social activists on September 12 and 13 in four villages of the panchayat. 

Saroja Devi’s three year old daughter died due to exposure to the hot summer sun when she was working under MGNREGA scheme in Burawan Panchayat in Jehanabad district, Bihar. She did not receive any compensation for the death of her child from exposure to the sun in the MGNREGA work site. But what is even more tragic is that she has not even been paid for the work that she did under MGNREGA. Also she is not aware that she is entitled to any compensation and who she should approach to obtain it.

Another women’s husband died when he fell down while working on a MGNREGA site. She too has not received any compensation nor has she been paid for the work that both she and her late husband did under MGNREGA.

Mangal Das had a job card but he has not worked on any project under MGNREGA but money was deposited in his MGNREGA account at the post office. He revealed that he was even more surprised when he saw that the money was withdrawn from his account without his knowledge.

Over 100 workers worked on a MGNREGA project to build a long canal structure to hold rain water in 2010. None of them have received payment for the same. The Additional director of Jehanabad, incharge of MGNREGA was surprised when he found such large scale non payment of wages to poor Dalit labourers in Burwan Panchayat.

On Septemebr 14 when the Jan Sunvai, (public hearing) of the social audit was presented in Burawan village panchayat area in the presence of the woman Sarpanch and the Panchayat Rojgar Sevak, 1200 villagers from four villages were present for the hearing. They contributed their inputs to reveal the various irregularities in the MGNREGA projects undertaken in their villages.

 

Half way into the hearing which was being held in a open field, it started raining heavily. Despite the rain pouring through the shamiana (tent), villagers choose to stay and attend the hearing. Finally the tent fell down but still the villages continued with the hearing as also the activists who were presenting the findings of their social audit.

Women, men, both old and young participated in the hearing which showed the level of interest they had in MGNREGA. This could be a way out of their poverty since many labourers in the villagers revealed that they often worked for one whole day with as little as Rs 20-30 which is way below poverty line for a single person.

The social audit was part of the Training of Trainers (ToT) organised by Poorest Areas Civil Society programme to train social activists to carry out social audits in the villages where MGNREGA is implemented.

Social audit is an integral part of MGNREGA to add transparency and accountability in implementing this flagship programme of the government. The social activists who have been trained will in turn train other people from various gram panchayats to carry out social audits in their villages. These trained villagers will ensure that the scheme is implemented in total and is beneficial to the socially discriminated groups.

The social audit revealed that there are 1200 job card holders in Burawan panchayat but in the nine months since a new Panchayat Rojgar Sevak has been appointed, not a single job card has been issued.

Over 200 new applications were filled at the site to get job cards by villagers eager to obtain a job card so that they can be eligible for work under MGNREGA. The job card registration drive was undertaken by the social activists on the site of the social audit to create awareness and facilitate the process. The table where job card registration forms were being filed was mobbed by villagers as they queued up and waited for hours to fill a form. Finally, the activists ran out of forms.

 

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Arun Miishra  22 Oct 2019

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Arun Miishra  22 Oct 2019

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