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National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) faces delay demon in Dumka - Funds pumped in for ghost projects

Central government's flagship rural job scheme has taken a hit in Jharkhand, then Dumka exemplifies the extent of corruption that has eaten into the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).


At least five NREGS projects at Chikiniya panchayat under Jama block of Dumka have been proved defunct since 2008. Over Rs 5 lakh has been pumped into the construction of a proposed check dam to be built at a cost of Rs 13,41,000 at Lodhna village. However, a site visit reveals that little work has been done on the proposed dam in the recent past.


There are other NREGS-funded projects that are either unfinished or have been delayed. Work on ponds at Bal Bahiar (Rs 10,20,000), Jarjokha (Rs 4,91,000) and two in Lakhanpur (costs Rs 4,91,000 and Rs 9,20,000) have been going on for more than a year, even after their deadlines were long over.


"NREGS projects happen only on paper. It exists in government files and documents. While families like us have to migrate for a better life," said a Dumka villager. A common proverb in some areas is that: "Jo NREGS karega, woe marega (one who depends on NREGS, suffers)."


A nexus of touts and administrators, it seems, make projects live on paper months after the deadline to keep the funds flowing. For example, the deadline for the construction of a Rs 10,99,800-worth grade-I road at Mongaldehi panchayat under Soraiyahat block in Dumka ended on July 31, 2008. Though Rs 1,74,000 has already been pumped into the project, the work is far from being over. While the first few months was spent constructing a soil road, work on pebbling the grade-I road, which should have started right at the beginning, started recently.


Another discrepancy is that heavy machines, such as JCB, are engaged in NREGS-sponsored works though the practise is strictly prohibited in NREGS rule books, as applying heavy machines for construction deprive labourers of the scheme's benefits. Large machines are being engaged in on-going plantation drives that have been initiated by the Dumka forest division (west command) at Nonihat forest circle.


JCB machines were also used to dig the earth at Lakarbank village under Soraiyahat panchyat, so that the agency assigned the project could finish the work within deadline. Ideally, local residents should have been employed for the afforestation drive.


Telegraph / May 25, 2009
Jharkhandi political picnic with Pork and Hadiya

Campaigning is over. Now, is the time for a feast — with hadiya and sugri — on poll-eve to woo voters, especially tribals, in Santhal Pargana.


Not surprisingly, JMM has taken the lead in this usual pre-poll ritual. A JMM leader, who doesn't wish to be named, said the party had taken the pradhans or manjhi harams (traditional village heads) in confidence and separate funds were released for arranging such feasts.


JMM, along with other parties, have started pumping huge amounts of money to arrange hadiya or mahua and sugri (pork). JMM workers, however, remained cautious in minority-dominated villages where they arranged for fish and mutton.


In poverty-ravaged villages atop the Rajmahal hills, Paharias were happy to enjoy the community feasts on election-eve. "After feasting and drinking hadiya, we will proceed to the polling stations from early morning tomorrow to cast our votes," said a youth belonging to the endangered tribe.


The villagers said they have been enjoying such feasts by their "favourite candidates" on the eve of every election since long. "This time I have to arrange goats and fish from nearby Rampurhat in Bengal because in many villages we had to arrange two or three such community feasts," said a top-ranking JMM leader at Littipara in Pakur.


Every other political party was supportive of such feasts. "What is wrong if somebody provides food to hungry people? It has become a common custom here just like arranging feasts during a marriage," said a top BJP leader on condition of anonymity.


Telegraph / 2009 April 22




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