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Now, Mani Shankar Aiyar blasts govt over rural jobs scheme

Last updated on: August 19, 2010 13:16 IST

Now, Mani Shankar Aiyar blasts govt over rural jobs scheme

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Sreelatha Menon in New Delhi


Former Union panchayat raj minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, lately in the news for denouncing the Commonwealth Games, is aiming his guns much closer to the United Progressive Alliance government's heart, at the way it is implementing the flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

He is joining forces with like-minded critics of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council such as economist-activist Jean Dreze to drive home the fact that its basic promises are being kept almost nowhere. Dreze has already said the UPA government is ruining NREGA by resisting accountability.

Aiyar began his attack this month with a series of parliamentary questions on non-payment of the allowances stipulated under the law.

Armed with the sorry record on this issue, he has written to NAC members to "take this up as a matter of high priority, which is perhaps the only way in which we can rouse the attention of the government to this betrayal of the promises embedded in the Act.''

Click NEXT to read about the poor record of payment to workers . . .


Image: People working in a field under the NREGA programme.
Photographs: Reuters
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Section 7 of the NREGA makes it binding to pay the promised allowance to workers if they were not given a job within 15 days of demand. Yet, not a single worker has got this allowance in 20 states.

As for the rest, the record of payment is so small that it can be counted on one's fingers. While one person got it in Kerala, eight got in in Bengal, 51 in Tripura, 78 in Jharkhand, 543 in Orissa, 679 in Karnataka, 1,144 in Maharashtra and 1,574 in Madhya Pradesh.

These are figures for the past four years for only the eight states which ever paid this allowance, in a country where 40 million people are supposed to be employed under the Act each year.

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Image: Mani Shankar Aiyar.
Photographs: Rediff Archive
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Dreze, who is also a member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council, the advisory review body for the NREGA, has written to Aiyar, listing other instances of non-accountability.

His letter says: "Non-payment of unemployment allowance is only one manifestation of the general resistance of both central and state governments to any sort of accountability under NREGA, defeating the whole purpose of the Act. For instance, you could equally have asked how many workers have ever been compensated for delays in wage payments under Section 30 (Schedule II) of NREGA."

"To my knowledge, there is only one case of such compensation (in Jharkhand), even though delays in wage payments have caused immense hardships to NREGA workers in the last two years. Similarly, there are only two cases of any government officer ever being fined under Section 25 of NREGA for dereliction of duty,'' the letter adds.

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Image: (Inset) Jean Dreze
Photographs: Courtesy, Business Standard
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Dreze says he has failed to do anything about it in the CEGC as it has been reduced to a body whose advice is ignored. He says he is hoping now to raise it in the NAC.

He writes: "It is sad to see the UPA government ruining NREGA by failing to act on this. We are certainly hoping to raise this issue at the NAC, since we have been quite unsuccessful in other forums."


Photographs: Reuters
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