Postal workers are embezzling MGNRGA wages taking chances of fake job cards. A study by a local NGO in tribal dominated Koraput diststict reveals that wages meant for ‘dead’ job seekers were withdrawn by people other than their living relative.
The study, covering 410 labourers, found that though days of work were only inflated by 12 percent, in terms of wages, labourers confirmed only half of the wages recorded in official documents. The mismatch in wages as per official records and as per labourer's testimonies is much larger – only 51.4% of wages recorded in people's job cards was received by labourers.
As per official records, Rs4.55 lakhs had been paid as wages for this work, but labourers received only Rs2.34 lakhs. The average wage earned by labourers for work done since 1 January, 2012 is Rs71. In many cases where people are underpaid for the work they performed. The study found that the scale of works is shockingly low. Sixty percent of the surveyed households did not get a single day of work since 1 January, 2012.
The study highlighted the role of the postal department in embezzling NREGA wages. At least four cases where dead people's names were on muster rolls whose wages have been withdrawn by someone other than living family members. Ghasi Khora and Gurubari Khora (Muduliguda village, Bopariguda Block) of job card number
OR-11-018-016-007/15495 have been dead for approximately seven years. In 2012-13, Ghasi and Gurubari Khora are listed to have worked on the construction of form pond at Samarakhora on Muster Roll number 1230 (dated 12/6/2012), 1400 (dated 19/6/2012), with Rs3024 credited to their account. The survey team met their son 15-year old son, who works as a migrant labourer in Chennai. He has not received a single paise recorded on his father's job card. This suggests that the postal deparment and the implementing agency (Gram Panchayat in this particular case) are colluding to defraud the system.
Similarly, in Tangniguda village (Paikphulebeda Gram Panchayat), labourers said that they had been asked to put their thumbprint on the withdrawal slip of the post office by the Gram Rozgar Sewak. They were told that would not get their rations if they did not do so. In the same Gram Panchayat, Rs80,000 was recovered from concerned post master in the past. Lack of accountability in the postal department has meant that continues with his corrupt practices.
Delay in payment of wages has also opened the door to corruption. Official payments take up to 3 months to process, so wages are advanced to labourers by functionaries of the implementing agency. When wages are sanctioned through official channels into their post office or bank saving accounts, officials of the implementing agency either go with labourers to withdraw wages (and take the money from them) or make them put their thumbprint on withdrawal slips. In Pujariput village (Maliguda hamlet), Ramgiri Gram Panchayat, even though labourers have bank accounts they were taken there by the Forest Guard and asked to withdraw their wages. The District administration said that they had made an interest free corpus of Rs1 crore at the disposal of the postal department to prevent delays.
However, the postal department has not streamlined its payment system. In spite of six phone calls, one personal invitation and one by email, with the Postal Department, no official showed up for the meeting.
For the study social audit of NREGA works in 12 villages of six Gram Panchayats was conducted from 20-25 February, 2013 by SPREAD, a local NGO from Koraput. The audit meeting was attended by the District Collector Sachin Jadhav, Project Director, NREGA Mr. Chudamani Seth, Director, Social Audit, Government of Orissa Mr Manas Ranjan, State Advisor to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court in the Right to Food Case Mr Rajkishor Mishra and Dr. Reetika Khera from Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi.
Mr Jadhav, District Collector, promised to take “remedial, corrective and penal action” and the Director, Social Audit urged others to conduct more studies and participate in the monitoring of NREGA in the District.