Govt officers turn daily wagers

Case Studies: Orissa

The rural road to nearby Ramjhola was implemented in six phases at a cost of more than Rs 7 lakh. The labourers have not yet received their wages. “We ran from pillar to post to get our dues but in vain. Then we realised that our hard earned money was eaten up by block officials”, said Punia Majhi, a victim.

The same year, there were irregularities galore in the works taken up under MGNREGA in Pujariguda and Daniguda in neighbouring Nowrangpur district, also tribal dominated. “That year, in one month I had got only five days of work. But later I came to know that official rolls were manipulated and 24 days of work shown against my name. Wages for 19 days was pocketed by the officials”, said a villager Bidhan Munda.

 Munda’s fellow villager, Jasu Mutika, made an interesting revelation. He said he had seen a muster roll with some fake names, which included a villager who had died long back.

However, the victimised villagers may get justice and the guilty block and district officials their just deserts, thanks to the ongoing inquiry into the irregularities by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The CBI is probing a multi-crore scam  in six districts of Orissa following a directive from the Supreme Court. The six districts, majority of them tribal dominated, are Koraput, Nowrangpur, Rayagara, Bolangir, Kalahandi and Nuapara. All of them are considered among the poorest districts in India.

Other allegations being examined by CBI include collection of bribes from the poor villagers by the officials to provide job cards, siphoning of funds with the help of false bills in the name of fake beneficiaries and use of machines to implement the works instead of job card holders.

The multi-crore scam came to light in 2007 when a New Delhi based non-governmental organisation, Centre for Environment and Food Security filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding a CBI probe into the large-scale corruption in the implementation of MGNREGA in Orissa. The NGO moved the court on the basis of its survey in the backward districts  which found that Rs 500 crore had been misappropriated under the scheme. The apex court in turn directed the Orissa government to file an affidavit. Subsequently, the state government furnished two affidavits. A dissatisfied  Supreme Court directed the CBI to probe the scam in April this year  and submit a report within six months.  State government officials claim a vigilance department probe had  filed 111 cases against 239 officials and non-officials. The government defense is weak  because two other reports by CAG and the Hyderabad based National Institute of Rural Development had also established funds misappropriation.

The silver lining is that the CBI has forced some probity. “Getting wages is no more a problem,” said Kartik Hikaka, a villager from Pipalpadar panchayat.

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