People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 13

March 26, 2006



APAWU’s Exemplary Role In Mobilising Rural Poor Under NREGA


A state government official speaking at the mandal-level training school organised by the APAWU


M Venugopala Rao


ANDHRA 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.


After 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.


The 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.




One 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.


In 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.




During 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.


That 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.


During 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 necessary guidance. 


On 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.


While 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  eventual  derailment.