People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 22

May 28, 2006

Demonstration For Implementation Of NREGS In UP


Subhashini Ali


DEMONSTRATION for implementation of  NREGS was held In Hasua block, Fatehpur district in UP. While UP has the distinction of having the largest number of districts selected, it also has the more dubious distinction of being, perhaps, the only State where almost nothing has been done to see that the provisions of the Act are implemented, though the  notification was given on February 2. It can safely be said that till today not a single work site has been started in consonance with these provisions.


AIDWA units are active in several of the notified districts in mobilising women to demand work.  For the last month, the campaign has been taken up by kisan sabha and AIAWU activists also.  Everywhere that demonstrations were held, the district authorities had a stock reply – instructions have not been issued.  In spite of this, in Kushinagar district of Eastern UP, more than 200 women, including many belonging to the most poverty-stricken of all, the Musahars many of whom have died of starvation in the last few drought-prone years, demonstrated before the collectorate.  After they stormed the office, refusing to leave till their demands were met, they were issued Work Cards!  In Chandauli also there have been demonstrations in all the blocks of the district and a few works have now been started in the district but not in the way that is envisioned in the Act.


Fatehpur is one of the 22 districts in UP that have been selected for the implementation of the NREGA.  District leaders of the Kisan Sabha, AIAWU and AIDWA have been going regularly to the district collectorate since March  and have also held a demonstration there but there was absolutely no response.  Then they decided to intensify their agitation.  A group of activists went on cycles from village to village in the Hasua block at the time of an intense heat-wave led by  Narottam Singh, Gayaprasad and Chiraunji Lal.  From  May 4-6 they visited 25 villages, spending the night there.  Meetings were held to discuss the problems of the villagers and also the provisions of the Act.  Several pradhans (sarpanchs) were also contacted.  Not only had the work not been started anywhere but hardly any preparations at all have been made.  It was, therefore, decided to hold a demonstration at the Hasua Block on May 16.


Hundreds of women and men collected at the block.  Many of the women were widows and most of them were extremely poor. All the men and women were landless agricultural workers. As if in preparation for the demonstration, large posters giving details of the Act’s provisions had been posted all over the Block offices the previous night!


Zarina Khursheed (state president, AIDWA) and I participated in the demonstration.  Several people spoke including the pradhans of two villages.  What they said was truly shocking.


Mansingh Yadav, pradhan of Michki village, said that he had been issued 80 work cards from the block.  He got the photographs of 80 couples taken, all of them belonged to the SCs and had the completed cards ready for distribution but because of the fact that the panchayat secretary the gram panchayat adhikari,(a government functionary) had been absent for more than 2 months the photographs could not be attested and the cards could not be counter-signed.  He went on to say that the poor people who had the cards made were repeatedly asking him, so he distributed 30 cards knowing full well that they would be of little use.


Villagers from Faridpur village said that their pradhan was demanding Rs. 50 for each work card and also told them to get their photographs taken.  They also mentioned that a year ago they had paid Rs.10 each for BPL cards but were yet to get them.


From Village Sarain Amaiyya, 5 people who had been issued work cards showed their cards which had not been signed or attested.


A CPI(M) pradhan, Siyaram from Chhitampur village said that he had managed to get 135 work cards which had been duly filled and attested and the work in his village (digging of a pond) was going to start from the May 8.  However, even he said that none of the NREGA norms had been followed but getting some work was better than none.


Other villages complained that no one had even told the villagers about work cards but now that they had heard about the scheme they had started demanding them which was making pradhans and others very angry.


All the block officials had also come to the office that day and had a detailed discussion with us.  They accepted the fact that the government had only recently started issuing instructions about the Act.  The government scheme, however, had still not been prepared and not a single gram sabha had been held in the entire state.  They said that while work would start, it would just be the kind of work that was being done in the other schemes like Rozgar Yojana etc., and they were hopeful that the implementation of the Act would materialise after July 15.  Many of the problems were quite genuine.  For one thing, the state government has not accorded any kind of priority to this work.  For another, funds for the work cards have only been released in the last week.  The biggest hurdle, however, is that there is just not enough staff to actually implement the Act.  For example, for the 788 villages in the district, there are only 104 panchayat secretaries of whom 10 – 15 percent are under suspensions.  Without their presence, the gram sabha cannot be held and without their signature no attestation of any kind can be made.  The short-sighted World Bank influenced policies of cutting back on jobs and recruitment are taking a very heavy toll.


The situation in Fatehpur is far from unique. A newspaper report about Hardoi quotes a pradhan of Gutaiya village, Sushil Singh, as saying that application forms for registration are being sold outside the block office for between Rs. 2 and 20. When this was brought to the notice of the district magistrate, he replied `We all know that the villagers used to pay people sitting outside the tehsil office for writing their applications. I cannot do anything if they are even buying the forms from outsiders.'  


The UP government’s criminal negligence of the most basic needs of the poor should not go unchallenged. The AIDWA, Kisan Sabha and AIAWU in the state have taken a decision to launch militant campaign for the implementation of the Act and also use this campaign to increase their organisational strength and intervention capabilities.