Skip to main content

Jharkhand witnesses 9% decline in National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme jobs

By Debmalya Nandy
National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) functionaries were recently out of duty for nearly two-and-a-half months, as they were protesting and demanding for better remuneration and facilities. The result was, its implementation across the state came to a standstill during a period which happened to be the major working time after the paddy harvesting was over.
In the absence of work, many migrated to different townships and cities in search for work. Prior to this, many mukhias in Jharkhand went for a one-month-long “pen down” strike as the second installment of the Fourteenth Finance Commission funds were not provided to 17 districts. Meanwhile, there were constant agitation and demonstration by people’s representatives and their frontline functionaries against this state of affairs.
The state government’s inability in dealing with administrative issues, thus, once again failed the rural workers, who were forced to resort to distress migration to towns and cities in search of work. However, to their dismay, most of them found that the scope of employment across sectors in the entire country had reduced drastically. Hence many of them returned to their villages empty handed.
In the absence of cash, many faced hunger and extreme destitution. In a state where hunger and malnutrition have caused many fatalities in the recent past, such mismanagement in implementing the rural jobs scheme goes to show how unprepared the government is in dealing with the issues of the poor.
The jolt is indeed huge. Official data show that, during 2018-19, the state could only achieve 76% of the approved persondays of the labour budget. This was even less than the previous financial year (2017-18), when the state achieved 85% of the total approved labour budget.
A decline of 9% in persondays generation should be a major cause of concern. While several media reports have claimed that the demand for NREGS work was the maximum in 2018-19 compared to the last few years, Jharkhand’s poor show is a sign of failure of the state government.
Rural households of Jharkhand, deprived of year-round food security and availability of alternative employment, have to significantly depend on NREGS work. But due to the mismanaged implementation, a larger section of the workers has lost faith in it. While across the nation, in the absence of other employment opportunities, people did opt for NREGS, in Jharkhand, official figures show that works further dried up under the scheme.
According to the GoI’s official website, 19.08 lakh workers from 14.45 lakh households worked in NREGS in the year 2017-18, while in 2018-19 there has been much less participation in the scheme -- 16.24 lakh workers from 12.73 lakh families. While the number of participating households declined by 12%, the number of workers reduced by 15%.
The total number of works taken up, including new work and spillover work, declined by 11.43%, while total number of on-going works at the end of the year saw a decrease of 35% in 2018-19. Furthermore, it is the general practice to close the scheme randomly on MIS (Management Information System) while the works are physically incomplete and the payments to the workers are yet to be made. Therefore, the data on “completed works” on MIS cannot be believed.
Also, the number of people who had completed 100 days of employment was 29% less than the previous year.
For Jharkhand, the most disturbing figure is about the participation of tribal people in NREGS works. Their participation has been constantly going down over the years. Thus, while in 2018-19, it went down by 2%, there was a 12% decline – from 38% to mere 26% --over the last four years.
More surprising is the fact that the downfall is much more in tribal-dominated areas where tribal participation in NREGS is generally high. The belts of Santhal Pargana and West Singhbhum are the worst affected. In some blocks the reduction is in the range of 10-22%.
This needs a detailed study, analysis and introspection. While there is no clear reason or evidence of scheduled tribes (STs) prospering and coming out of their vicious poverty circle, the declining figures appear to indicate disinterest among the workers and growing corruption in these areas.
There could be broadly three reasons why the official website shows a drastic decline in tribal participation:
  1. Disinterest and lack of faith among the workers caused by uncertainties linked to NREGS payments, due mainly to ridiculous wage rates.
  2. The local nexus predominantly controlled by the non-tribals operating in full swing, and money being siphoned off through forged muster rolls, thereby showing a higher non-tribal percentage on MIS. 
  3. STs work under non-tribal contractors and middlemen under the latters’ job cards instead of their own. This is an old practice where contractors make people work on their job cards and get the money in their bank accounts, and the real workers get a share of the payments by cash. The immediate cash makes life easy for the labourers, who hardly complain about the non-payment of full wages. 
In any case, bank payments are not popular among tribal workers. Due to fragile rural banking systems with inadequate infrastructure and resources, people find that they end up spending a lot of time and money to withdraw their wages. Thus, such a contractor-based exploitative system continues unabated.
There is a view that tribals are coming out of NREGS works by choice. However, one can completely rule this out, as during the last few years the economic conditions of the farmers in general and government service delivery to the rural households in particular has worsened. The tribal population has neither found an alternate source of income, nor has it got full entitlements out of government schemes.
In fact, there have been constant media reports of starvation deaths in Jharkhand, and several fact- finding teams have repeatedly emphasized that no NREGS works were going on in the villages, mostly dominated by tribals, where the incidents of hunger deaths took place.
In such a scenario, the reduction of tribal participation in NREGS works should be a warning bell for the administration and the government. Yet the BJP-led state government seems to be absolutely blind about the whole thing. While the government’s own data demand immediate attention and action, unfortunately those at the top are, as usual, in a denial mode.
Also, in terms of average employment provided to participating households, there has been no improvement this year. On an average, 42 days of employment was provided to each of the job card holding families who worked under NREGS in 2018-19. The figure was 41 days in 2017-18.
In 2015-16, which was also the year when Jharkhand had carried out its ambitious people’s planning campaign i.e Yojna Banao Abhiyan, the average days of employment provided per household was 52 days, and while the next year this figure declined to 40.6 days, Jharkhand also observed a record 707 lakhs persondays generation, surpassing the approved labour budget of 700 lakh persondays.
Furthermore, it is a matter of concern that, while Jharkhand has 23 lakh active job cards holders and 29 lakh active workers, only 16 lakh workers from 12 lakh families were working in 2018-19. There is a need to ponder as to why the rest of the inactive job card holding families were staying away from NREGS works.

Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.