At the construction site of a dam in Chakmandi village of Dungarpur district in Rajasthan, nearly 183 labourers below the poverty line eat frugal meals.
They do not know it, but other families are envious of them. True, they have not got a rupee yet for the work they did. But, at least, they have work, and will get some wages. Others are not so lucky.
Though the sanctioned number of labourers for the village is 200, there are only 183 at the work site. This is because a district diktat says only BPL families are to be provided work.
Although the guidelines of the National Food for Work Programme do not specify that only BPL families are to be provided work, administrative convenience has ensured that this happens, at least in Dungarpur.
"There is no mechanism for gauging the demand for employment. This district has 1,70,000 BPL families, and the district administration has decided that they alone are going to be the target of the programme," says Man Singh, an office bearer of the Vagad Mazdoor Sangathan, a local NGO.
In Dungarpur, there is confusion over the target families of the programme. The chief executive officer of the district rural development agency Mohan Lal Sharma believes that the programme is meant only for BPL families.
"Even if it is not mentioned in the guidelines, the BPL families require work," he says.
However, five years of drought in a district where average land holding does not go beyond five acres have meant that every one ekes out a precarious living.
Take the case of Rekha and Sangeeta. They fall in the BPL category, and are employed. But their problem lies in the nature of their work. The dam coming up is on common land, or charnot, as it is called here.
It is being constructed by strictly adhering to the guidelines of the programme. This, however, is not an ideal site for a dam to be constructed. This is because this dam does not meet another dam, which is required to ensure the flow of water from reservoir to reservoir.
"The ideal site is actually on Moorti Bai's land, but that is not allowed. While we are happy that we are getting work, we wonder whether this will really help," asks Rekha.
The NFFWP supposedly addresses a felt need for employment. But, for it to be effective, structural problems like the ones seen in Dungarpur will have to be ironed out, before any real gain can be made from the programme.
Only 183 out of a sanctioned 200 turn out for work in Chakmandi village in Dungarpur district
Administration says only BPL families are to be provided work
- No mechanism in place for gauging the demand for employment in Dungarpur district