People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 26, 2006
A state government official speaking at the mandal-level training school organised by the APAWU
Pradesh Agricultural Workers’ Union (APAWU) has been in the forefront in doing
exemplary work in mobilising the rural poor to enable them to get work under the
Andhra Pradesh Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (APREGS) formulated and
launched by the state government in 13 districts under the provisions of the
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA). Having been approved by
the state cabinet and notified in the official gazette on January 30, 2006, the
scheme is going to be implemented from April 1, 2006 for which arrangements are
going on in full swing.
the NREGA came into force, APAWU started its work in a systematic manner to
educate the rural poor of the opportunities available and the procedures to be
adopted and mobilise them to enroll themselves as applicants seeking work under
the scheme. The village panchayats would issue job cards to the families whose
members got their names enrolled for this purpose. About 33 lakh applications were submitted, covering 656
mandals in 13 districts by intended beneficiaries. The 13 districts cover the
entire Telangana region, entire Rayalaseema region except Kurnool district, and
Vijayanagaram district in Andhra area which constitute about 60 percent of the
total area of the state.
state government originally thought of issuing one lakh job cards per district,
expecting that applications would be confined to that extent. However, APAWU
insisted that work should be provided under the scheme to all the eligible
applicants without any limitations and succeeded in thwarting the attempts to
deny job cards in the name of a joint family, taking advantage of the
ambiguities under five kinds of definitions given to a family.
Different families are dwelling in the same house, having their kitchens
separately. APAWU concentrated on
getting job cards to all such families. In
an exceptional effort, the Union got 20 lakh applications printed and
distributed to the job-seekers and set up help
centres to get the same duly filled up and
submitted to the panchayats.
Expressing its resentment and opposing the move of the government to
collect some amount from the beneficiaries to issue the job cards, APAWU also
succeeded in convincing the government to give up such a move.
For issuing ration cards, the government collected Rs 50 per card.
For job cards, which are in the form of a book and can be used for a
period of five years, with photographs of beneficiaries, it would have cost
about Rs 60 per card. With the
efforts of the Union, imposition of a burden of about Rs 20 crore on the poor
beneficiaries has been avoided. Now the job cards are being issued free of cost
and their distribution would be completed by the end of March.
of the most important prerequisites for successful implementation of the scheme
is formation of special machinery at various levels, from the village to the
state level. To assist the village secretaries in implementation of the scheme,
field assistants were appointed at the village level in 14,000 villages in 13
districts. Those who passed tenth
class are eligible for appointment, with youth in the scheduled areas getting
eligibility even if they failed in tenth class. Three candidates were selected
at the village meeting and one among them was finally appointed at the mandal
level. All the applicable reservations were to be followed in the recruitment.
The ruling Congress party however made serious efforts to politicise the
recruitment and get the people of its choice appointed, with a majority of the
MLAs belonging to that party. At several places, the Union intervened and
prevented such attempts. While the minimum wage to be paid to the beneficiaries
under the employment guarantee scheme is Rs 80 per day, the field assistants
will be paid Rs 1200 per month, i.e., Rs 40 per day. Their job is to issue job cards to the applicants, receive
applications for work, and arrange for payment. The Union pointed out that it is
not fair to pay them such a lower wage.
656 mandals, six people per mandal
are recruited on contract basis. Out
of them three technical assistants with a monthly salary of Rs 4500 per head
will have to do the work of making estimates of works and taking measurements of
works done all over the mandal. Two
are computer operators getting a monthly salary of Rs 4000 per head and one
programme officer getting a monthly salary of Rs 9000 per head who coordinates
implmentation of the scheme. It is for the first time in the state that for
implementation of a single scheme that altogether 18,000 employees are
recruited at a time. Here, too, all
applicable reservations are to be followed in recruitment.
However, all these employees do not get statutory benefits like provident
fund, etc. APAWU demanded the
government to provide all such benefits to them.
the erstwhile NDA regime, the then Telugu Desam Party government in the state
misused rice worth about Rs 4000 crore under the food for work programme. To see
that no such misuse of the employment guarantee scheme takes place, APAWU
initiated moves well in advance and there was good response from sincere
officers in the ministry of rural development. The government agreed to make
payment of wage to the beneficiaries under the scheme through banks by opening
accounts in the name of individual beneficiaries or through post offices where
there are no bank branches to prevent misuse of the scheme. However, there is
scope for opening fake accounts. APAWU
would try to prevent such misuse by involving itself in the social audit of the
scheme, B Venkat, general secretary of the Union, says. For conducting
social audit, training is given to 50 people at the state level.
However, for conducting social audit of the scheme, the Union demanded
the government to conduct such training to all the 18,000 employees.
the rural employment guarantee scheme is the outcome of the long-drawn mass
struggles of the Left parties and the Left mass organisations is well-known.
Naturally, the scheme is not to the liking of the rural landlords and
bourgeois-landlord parties and they are trying to dilute it, for the simple
reason that its effective implementation will have its desirable impact on
agricultural wage, as well as untouchability, in rural areas. To see that the
scheme is not watered down but implemented effectively, APAWU resolved to play
supervisory role. For this purpose,
special machinery is set up from
the village level to the state level in the form of committees for
implementation of rural employment guarantee scheme. Committees in all the 13
districts, 656 mandals and 7,000 villages have been formed, according to Venkat.
At the state level, a team of eight members has been formed. Three classes were
conducted at the state level, with a duration of five days each, to 800 people,
with at least one per mandal, and to 6000 people at the district level.
Conventions at the mandal level were also conducted in which 2.40 lakh people
participated. In 625 mandals, there are 12,000 members in the committees.
Through these committees the Union would make all efforts to see that the scheme
is not misused, explains Venkat.
the strenuous efforts made by APAWU for the last six months for taking all these
measures for educating and mobilising the rural poor on this scheme, 200 people
came forward to work as full-time workers of the Union.
For all of them, training and political classes were conducted in
Hyderabad from March 10 to 19, 2006. “Our aim is to see that benefits of the
scheme reach the people. For this the Union and democratic movement are important.
The movement of the agricultural workers and our organisation should be
strengthened. Membership should increase. Cadres
should be developed. The movement
should take roots and expand where it is not in existence and get strengthened
where it is. We are working systematically in this direction”, explains Venkat.
At the state centre, president of All India Agricultural Workers’ Union,
Paturu Ramaiah, and state secretary of the CPI(M), B V Raghavulu, are giving
the massive campaign taken up by APAWU on the scheme, going even to the nook and
corner villages, the government also coordinated with it providing necessary
financial and administrative backing. The district collectors and project
directors acknowledged that taking the campaign to such a level was possible
because of the active role played by APAWU. The efforts being made by the Union,
with the coordination of sincere and responsive officers, for successful
implementation of the scheme have become an eye sore to the Congress party. Some
of the ministers simply could not digest this and even tried to dissuade the
officers who are favourably inclined for implementation of the scheme. The main
opposition party, the Telugu Desam Party, is not only disinterested in the
scheme, but also inclined to water down the scheme by joining hands with the
Congress, should the opportunity arise for it. The BJP and Telangana Rashtra
Samathi are simply not bothered about the scheme. Some of the dalit and tribal
organisations, claiming themselves to be working for social classes, have not
come forward to involve themselves for implementation of the scheme.
the scheme is going to be implemented from April, elections to local bodies in
the state are going to be held in June. The
Congress party is trying to fully politicise the scheme with an eye on the
coming elections. There is every danger of this scheme getting transformed into
an employment scheme for the ruling party. Necessary vigilance is required to
prevent corruption taking place in the implementation of the scheme and its