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Nobody knows what to build

May 19, 2005 10:56 IST

Arun Shrimali, a social worker with an NGO called Sewa Mandir is no engineer. Yet, he, along with four other NGOs, are working on a tight deadline to come up with a five-year plan for assets to be created under the National Food For Work Programme.

Not only do Shrimali and his associates not have the technical skills required to come up with such a plan, the number of people for whom the plan is to be drawn, too, remains a mystery.

The NFFWP was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2004, and implemented in the country from December onwards.

Wages fail to come in time

Its guidelines called for a 5-year perspective plan on the works to be carried out in each district. The plan was to be put together by any agency chosen by the district collector.

In Udaipur, Collector Abhay Kumar chose five NGOs, and asked them to come up with one comprehensive plan, covering 11 blocks of the district. The deadline was a mere 40 days. The NGOs -- Foundation for Ecological Security, IFFDC (a subsidiary of IIFCO), Sahyog, Sewa Mandir and BIF -- all face the same problems.

Shrimali admits that his team cannot devote more than a day each to every village in the four blocks that Sewa Mandir has been asked to cover. His biggest problem is to figure out how many people require employment.

"In Gram Sabha meetings, which we call for people to demand work, and decide on the work to be carried out, we often find not many people can turn up at a day's notice," he says.

Not all poor get work here

When the matter was brought to the attention of the district collector, he started an employment registration drive under the "Prashasan Apke Dwar" scheme of the Rajasthan government.

According to KL Sharma, chief executive officer of the District Rural Development Agency, nearly 300,000 people have already registered for work.

In Dungarpur, however, the old list of people living below the poverty line is still used to gauge the employment demand.

Another problem that Shrimali faces is regarding land availability for erecting water harvesting structures. The programme demands that such structures be built only on communal land, or charnot, as it is called in Rajasthan.

Grain for workers reach mandis

"Water harvesting structures can only come up in catchment areas, which may not necessarily lie on community land, as is required by the programme," he says.

The NFFWP's success or failure will be closely watched. This is because the government has already announced that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, when passed in Parliament, will be merged with the NFFWP, thus making it one of the biggest social legislations in India.

Food-for-work IV

  • The NFFWP's guidelines called for a 5-year perspective plan on the work to be carried out in each district
  • The plan is to be put together by any agency chosen by the district collector, but most of them fail to adhere to the strict deadlines
  • The government is set to merge the rural jobs guarantee Bill with the food for work programme
Nistula Hebbar in Udaipur