Bhan Sahu thought being poor meant walking a kilometer to school and then having to drop out when she was eight years old, until she started working at an NGO and realized there were others even less fortunate than herself. Her interest in education didn’t wane, however. Using video as a tool to bring people together, her Community Correspondent reports…
Baiga Tribals of Padariya, Chhattisgarh wait over 3 years for MGNREGA ages.
About the Video: In 2008, four thousand Baiga adivasis toiled to construct drains and dig a water reservoir that pass through 34 village settlements in the forests of Pandariya Block in Chhattisgarh. They were employed by the Forest Department and the Gram Panchayat under the umbrella of one of the largest public welfare schemes in the country, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Three years have passed and the thousand Baiga workers have now occupied the environs of the office of the Sub-District Magistrate. They say that they will not move; that they will agitate until the wages that they have rightfully earned has been paid to them.
Community Correspondent says: Community Correspondent Bhan Sahu was actively involved in the organizing and co-ordinating the people’s protest. While making her video, she met with the Sub-District Magistrate Ms. Kiran Kaushal who promised to set up a special inquiry committee that would travel to the villages affected by the scam, hear the people’s complaints, arrange for the money to be paid and also, punish the corrupt authorities responsible for the situation.
She says, “Once she gave me her promise, I kept a tab on the development. I heard that the inquiry committee was set up as promised and gram sabhas were organized in all the villages. The workers have begun to receive their dues but it remains to be seen if the corrupt are identified and apprehended.” “I’m glad that the people's rally was successful but waiting three years for rightfully earned wages is unacceptable. Even now, it is only the Forest Department that has payed its due of around 20 lakhs. The 14 lakhs from the Gram Panchayat is yet pending. It is always the tribals and the marginalized, the people who most need the money to make ends meet who are cheated. The government has a tendency to steal from the bowls of society’s poorest.”
Asked if the rally's success would have any impact on the MGNREGA implementation, she adds, “Another season of MGNREGA work is about to begin soon. I’m sure it will bring in many, many cases of rampant corruption.”
The Rights of the People: MGNREGA provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work related unskilled manual work at minimum wage. Employed workers have to be paid within 15 days of the completion of the work.
Call to Action: The state of Chhattisgarh records some of the poorest statistics in the MGNREGA scheme- one of the highest in corruption and on the lower end in the implementation. The lack of education keeps the people especially the tribals away from the awareness of the rights given to them under the welfare scheme. Bhan Sahu calls for spreading awareness about the scheme and regular monitoring of the implementation. She also insists on the community themselves
scrutinizing the work being carried out.
The Baiga tribals of Pandariya block have started receiving their long overdue wages but it was awareness and organization that brought the injustice to light and the voices of the people that kept the light on long enough for their struggles to be redressed.