Jharkhand govt "takes away" tribal, non-tribal local bodies' right to decide on NREGA jobs, developmental work

By Our Representative
In what is being interpreted as a clear violation of provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act, 1996, the Jharkhand government has decided to form Adivasi Vikas Samitis in all scheduled villages and Gram Vikas Samitis in non-scheduled ones in Jharkhand to implement developmental schemes related with ponds, wells, and others amounting to less than Rs 5 lakh.
The traditional heads in PESA villages and Gram Panchayat Mukhiyas will only be “special invitees” in the committees. The Panchayat Sewak has to get them formed through ‘Aam Sabhas’. These committees will function under the administrative and financial authority of the state government -- Block Development Officer.
A civil rights group, taking strong exception to the state government move, says in a note forwarded to Counterview, “It is amply clear that this policy violates constitutional provisions of PESA and Jharkhand Panchayati Raj Act”, adding, “To activate the policy, the secretary of the rural development department has written to his officers to amend rules of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).”
Says NREGA Watch, Jharkhand, “Implementation of MGNREGA schemes, through these committees, is a violation of the legal provisions of this Act as well. The MGNREGA stipulates that at least 50 per cent of the total funds is to be spent through the Gram Panchayats. All schemes are to be selected only by the Gram Sabhas.”
It adds, “It must be mentioned that, currently in Jharkhand, almost all MGRNEGA schemes are implemented through the Gram Panchayats and most of them are less than Rs. 5 lakh. As a result of this decision of the government, all such schemes can now be implemented through the committees. This will make the role of Gram Panchayats negligible in MGNREGA.”
The civil rights group further says, “The Act also clearly prohibits implementation of schemes through contractors. There is little doubt that contractors will rule the roost in the names of these committees.”
It quotes Chief Minister Raghuvar Das telling the divisional conclave of the ruling BJP to form committees in each village, assuring party cadres that the local administration would provide administrative recognition to the committees, once they are formed.
According to the civil rights group, the new government move comes at a time when, “in most of the villages, workers are waiting for adequate number of schemes to be implemented”, adding, “In the last three years, households that managed to get work under MGNREGA could get only an average of 40 days of work per year.”
According to it, “In April 2018, MGNREGA employment was the lowest compared to the corresponding month in the last three years. The participation of adivasi and Dalit workers in MGNREGA employment fell from almost 50 per cent to 38 per cent in the last three years.”
What has allegedly further complicated the issue is, in the last two years, job cards of more than three lakh households were deleted in the “jobcard verification drive” of the government. It also includes cards of several households that regularly work in MGNREGA or want work. As a result, such households are unable to access their right to work.
The move comes amidst a 2017-18 study saying that at least 30 per cent of wage payments were not made on time, with issues such as aadhaar verification failure proliferating.

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