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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
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