About The Video: Almost an entire year has passed after 13 villagers of Rajabasa village toiled to dig a well under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme in Block Khuntpani, District West Singhbhum Jharkhand. They have not yet been paid their due wages.
As per government regulations, their wages were supposed to be deposited into the savings accounts opened at the local post office. But most of the villagers have not even been given their passbooks and some are reported to have been paid in cash. There have been reports that people who have not worked on the project have been given the money instead.
The villagers suspect that a major case of corruption is afoot involving the Block Development Office, The Postal Department and the officials of the MGNREGA.
Community Correspondent Says: Community Correspondent Kamal Kishore Purthy was doing a social audit on the MGNREGA scheme as part of an NGO when he came across many such cases in Jharkhand where the workers have not yet received their wages.
“It is easy to blame the corrupt officials but corruption is an age old story. We have to move beyond blaming corruption for all our woes and look at the broader picture,” says Kamal.
“If you have worked under MGNREGA scheme you are entitled to a compensation of upto Rs. 3000/- if your wages are delayed for more than 15 days. To avail of this compensation you have to work the system. And to work the system, you have to know it. You have to know your own rights and responsibilities. But in most cases where corruption is underfoot, the people are sorely unaware.”
So what must the people do?
“They must file an application with the Block Project Officer. It is a simple thing to do. Anybody who has worked under the MGNREGA can do it. Once the stipulated 15 days are over, there is nothing to wait for. Go ahead with the application. If you have done that and still receive no reply, then you have done your duty and now the government is to be held responsible.”
So how are you trying to promote awareness of rights and responsibilities among the people?
“We’re heading to the grassroots, to the most problematic areas as uncovered by our social audit and organizing awareness campaigns using street theatre, blackboards with the worker’s rights written on them, pamphlets.”
So very old school tactics then?
“But with the Camera and IndiaUnheard, the old school meets new media at the perfect angle. Roots in the soil and branches in the air. One has to keeps one’s option open. One always has to reach out.
So Kamal, this was your first video. How was the experience?
“I think I am getting the hang of it. I had trained a little man in my village, a young acquaintance, in the ways of the camera but on the fateful day of the shooting, he had left for school and I was all alone. But I thought what-the-hell and decided to go about it.”
“The people were supportive. The technical aspects were easy. It would have all gone by without a single hitch but for the dog.”
“While I was taking this interview, there was this dog nearby, a mongrel, who insisted on barking the roof down. I waited patiently but the moment the interview would roll, it would start barking. So then I went out, bought some biscuits, fed the dog which ate it all up but still it wouldn’t stop barking. Finally, I had a cup of tea and waited for the dog to walk away before shooting.”
“Well, it was not too much of a problem. It was a barking dog. It didn’t have any bite.”