july 26, 2008
Economic & Political
nreGa d h Dh f tps S
Tapas Soren, a tribal o Birakhapin Jharkhand, committedsel-immolation recently,impoverished by the constantdemand or bribes by localocials or work done underthe National Rural EmploymentGuarantee Act. His death soonater the murder o Lalit Mehtawho had exposed corruption in
schemes in Palamu is adamning comment on how thescheme is being implemented inJharkhand.
n the morning o July 2, 2008,Tapas Soren set himsel ablaze atCharhi Chowk in Hazaribagh.
Just beore taking this ultimately atalstep he was heard shouting “aur anyay nahi sahenge” (I will not tolerate any more injustice).
Only a couple o hoursbeore these events, Soren had met theblock development ocer (
) o Churchu and the panchayat sevak o hisgram panchayat to discuss mattersrelating to a 20 t well that was beingconstructed on his land under theNational Rural Employment GuaranteeAct (
). That the
, designedto benet people like Tapas, couldbe the precipitant o such a calamity speaks o a particularly grave state o aairs with respect to its implementationin Jharkhand.Hazaribagh was among the rst batcho districts where the
was imple-mented. This means that it has been oper-ative or almost three years. Birakhap(where Tapas lived) is exactly the kind o village where it was envisioned as havingthe greatest impact. Dilip, Tapas’ elderbrother described the struggles involvedin making ends meet in Birakhap. Theamily owns and works a total o 4.54acres o land. The single crop that they are able to produce in the year enablesthem to run their households oraround our months. The rest o the yearthey are orced to look or employmentelsewhere. This is a dicult task.Birakhap has no road: a river must becrossed to reach one. The search or work oten led Dilip and Tapas ar rom hometo where it was available – on roads orwith contractors in the region. Just asoten, employment was not available atall.
would seem tailor-made orTapas, Dilip and others in their village. Tobe assured o work at decent wages nearhome would be a combination thatseemed wonderul to the point o beingan illusion.
a Isidius P
That is because or the most part it is anillusion. Employment generation in Haz-aribagh has been quite low. In 2007-08,the average employment generated or the1.23 lakh households that demanded work was only around 34 days.
This year, untilJune, only 31,658 households have beenprovided with employment.
These macrostatistics also nd refection in Tapas’story. Dilip pointed out that
workshad only opened in December andJanuary and no new ones were takenup in the summer, when work is mostacutely needed.Even when employment was oered,there were delays in wage payments.Against the legal stipulation o paymentwithin 15 days, unds or payment o wages were oten released only 40 to 50days ater works had been completed.
This means that when alternative employ-ment was available, workers would chooseto leave an
worksite or immediatewages. At Tapas’ own well, work had beengoing on or almost three months,although, given the delays in release o unds to Tapas, there was rarely a week inwhich work would be carried out or morethan three or our days at a stretch. Dilipremarked that workers would simply leavework on the well or other kind o employ-ment i it was available in the area.While delays in wage payments andthe low volume o works might simply beput down to bureaucratic slowness, thepattern in which works were taken upsuggests something ar more insidious.Jemma Mendis, an activist o theChhotanagpur Adivasi Seva Samiti whichworks in the area, points out that in theour tribal hamlets o Sarabaha revenuevillage only two pond excavation worksand the well on Tapas’ eld had ever beensanctioned. In the one predominantly non-tribal hamlet, no less than 26 wellshad been sanctioned. The reason or thisstark contrast, she explained, was thatthere is a system o kickbacks running allthe way up the administrative hierarchy.The standard price or having a well
Anish Vanaik (
) isinvolved in eld surveys o the NREGA initiated by the G B Pant Social ScienceInstitute, Allahabad.