MGNREGA in Rajpur, M.P., defrauds the unemployed.
As elections approach and the Mahtama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is being featured in the propaganda as one the largest public welfare schemes implemented in the nation, the ultimate success of the scheme is increasingly being debated. Accusations of fraud and corruption have been periodically raised. Today’s video by IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Rakesh Khanna documents a public protest outside Rajpur District and Block Headquarters in Rajpur, Madhya Pradesh. The powerful video offers damning evidence of a welfare scheme whose intentions have been turned upside down and a system that is rife with corruption. A crowd of over 1000 have peacefully occupied the streets demanding the work and benefits promised to them under the scheme.
Under the MGNREGA, the unemployed adults of the community are supposed with the local authorities. After 15 days of verification and other formailities the applicants receive ‘job cards’. The Job Card holder can then approach the village authorities and make a petition for appropriate employment. If the card holder does not receive employment within 14 days of the petition, they are paid an unemployment allowance. The entire process is free of cost and anyone over the age of 18 can apply.
The authorities in charge at Rajpur though have illegally monetized this subsidised system. They were charging anywhere between the Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 in order to register applicants and issue ID cards. The corruption is not just located at the district headquarters but also at village and block levels. The unemployed villagers who even otherwise struggle to make ends meet finally got organized and decided to protest. But as the rally approached the headquarters the officers got whiff of it and instead of facing the demands of the crowd, they made a quick cheeky escape after locking the office down.
“Who are they to shut the government office down on a working day?” asks a weary protestor.
The accusations against the officers at the Rajpur Block and District headquarters is not just that they have looted and cheated some of the poorest people in the community but as public servants holding office they have shamelessly refused to listen to their public’s grievances. And yet again, the money for a public welfare act ends up lining some government official’s private coffer.