The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) guarantees Indian citizens the ‘right to work’ for the purpose of ensuring livelihood security in rural areas. In this interview, VV-PACS Community Correspondent Tanju Devi describes how she challenged administration with her camera ensuring that Tinku Devi hailing from the twin villages of Semri-Dumari, West Champaran was paid all dues owed to her for 7 days of employment via the MGNREGA scheme in her block. In 2012, Tinku Devi was hired by the Rural Works Department as per the MGNREGA scheme to clear the irrigation channels in her village. She worked a total of 7 days. While all the other people employed on the same project were paid soon after the completion of the project, Tinku Devi never received any money, nor did anyone pay much heed to her appeals for enquiry. In November 2013, when the work plan for MGNREGA was being discussed by all the villagers at the Gram Sabha (Village Council Meeting), Tinku Devi’s father-in-law reminded all present of the fact that despite almost a year going by, Tinku Devi was yet to be paid. Tanju Devi was present at this Gram Sabha, and decided that this was a great moment to utilize her IndiaUnheard training. “I knew that it had been over a year that she had finished work, but thought, since nothing else seemed to have worked in the past, why not try using the camera to create change— after all I’m trained for it!” To begin with, Tanju took an extensive interview of Tinku Devi. She then showed some of the community the video, and explained to them the process she was going to attempt. The community had complete faith in Tanju’s ability to create change, and a few of them accompanied her to the office of Daroga Choudhry, the local Ward Member. When confronted, he was flabbergasted. All the paperwork showed that all payments had been cleared. When the tenacious Tanju flourished her camera with Tinku Devi’s interview at Mr. Chowdhury, his will quailed and he promised to get to the root of this issue within 5 days. “When I returned 5 days later, Mr. Chowdhury confessed that while Tinku Devi had been paid along with all the other employees at that time, her money had been mistakenly transferred into another account. It was a genuine mistake, so I thanked him for his help, and requested him to set matters right.” Within the next few days, 1000 INR was transferred in to Tinku Devi’s bank account. “Tinku Devi’s success is only one such story. Now her neighbour has asked me to help with the non-payment of her dues also. MGNREGA is such a simple scheme on paper but has been so essentially flawed in implementation here, I’m beginning to think I might have to make a separate video documenting just this!” Completely nonchalant about her success as a Community Correspondent, Tanju feels that empowerment is the only key to her people’s development. “We are the Tharu. We have a long history of abuse & neglect & degradation at the hands of other people & communities, but not anymore. I’ve worked for years on focusing my people to go beyond depending on others for our livelihood. In the past, I had helped set-up Self Help Groups, and Bal Sansad (Children’s Parliament) here in our village. Now, with my camera, I can create greater changes for my community.” Interview compiled by Radhika.
Impact: All dues Paid
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