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Role of MNREGA in Mitigation of Rural Distress,challenges posed by a senseless decision by Rural Development Department in Kupwara

Shahid ul Islam

The Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act 2005, is labour law and Social security scheme which aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’.
Social security in broad terms is the protection that society provides to individuals and households to ensure access to a guaranteed income.
The MNREGA is completely a social Security scheme that was wrongly interpreted and used by our politicians and bureaucrats to create a mess in the shape of concrete monsters in our villages while ignoring the norms of the scheme.

This scheme is a demand-driven scheme, where the individual households apply for work and every household is entitled to get 100 days of work. Due to wrong policies of governments from time to time and very meager wages offered, this scheme turned into Contractor ship, however, there is still percolation of benefits to the target groups and the actual target of mitigation of suffering and Upliftment of rural economy is being achieved somehow.

The recent decision of Rural Development Department Kashmir to terminate the services of three Technical Assistants in our district was primarily fall out of this mindless and imaginary policy of creating durable concrete assets without caring about rules and regulations of this scheme like the primary task of maintaining 60 Material:40 Labour ratio.

These three Technical Assistants were made scapegoats along with their families to save big fishes, by the Technical expert of the inquiry committee. Then the sensational charge of alleged Corruption committed by these poor and helpless technical assistants which were leveled by the responsible officer of District Administration Kupwara was no less a motivator to go for suicide for a middle-class family.

The decision of termination of these three fellows raises a lot of questions than it answers. Since the matter is sub judice, let’s leave these questions to the wisdom of the Honourable High Court. These Technical assistants deserve all the praise for having the courage and withstanding ground amid immense social pressure.

The MNREGA scheme is a victim of the mindless engineering decision of few so-called experts who are trying to block this scheme in the border district of Kupwara, which has a huge labour class, who are locked in their homes since 5th August 2019. In these trying circumstances, MNREGA scheme was the only saviour but given the speed of mindlessness decisions of these engineering experts, these labours may die of starvation.

The primary observation of maintenance of 60:40 ratio for Labour: Material has been grossly misunderstood by our Administrators and Engineers. This ratio is to be maintained at the District level but due to gross mismanagement and wrong interpretation the engineers are enforcing this 60 labour: 40 material ratio on individual works at ward level not to think of Panchayat level or block level.

Now during the current financial year Rural Engineering wing, kupwara has designated some I/c Assistant engineers as a nodal officer to look after the estimation of the MNREGA scheme through an online secure system and this person has misled everyone be it Assistant commissioner Development, District Panchayat officer or Executive Engineer REW Kupwara. According to sources, he has issued directions to the field functionaries Junior Engineers/Technical Assistants to be realistic and to replace Head load by Mechanical transport which is used to transport material like cement, and aggregate to the site of work.

By actually transforming this Mechanical Transport into Head load the engineers used to somehow maintain the 60 percent ratio of unskilled labour which is the primary requirement of the MNREGA scheme and were saving their jobs too from getting terminated like the 3 technical assistants were terminated.

Various investigative agencies have investigated various MNREGA works but this head load item was never challenged since this item helped the concerned site Engineer to maintain the 60 percent labor ratio necessary for the MNREGA scheme. By the single stroke of this order of being realistic, the particular I/C Assistant Engineer has chocked the MNREGA scheme in District Kupwara. He is thus directly choking the bread and butter of hundreds and thousands of laborers, transporters, suppliers, shopkeepers, etc.
Mr. I/C AE cum Nodal Officer MNREGA desk Kupwara would you mind answering a few of my following questions and will you dare to raise these with those who matter, Director RDD Kashmir and Commissioner Secretary RDD.

What are your views about the unskilled labour rate of Rs 214/day? If you find these genuine, I would like to know how..?? How much labor costs you when you have some work in your home(charity begins from home). If not, are you planning to get them revised just as you mislead the higher-ups of your department regarding this Head load issue?

Is the rate of Rs 450/ day genuine for a skilled Mason or carpenter. How much do you pay for these when you require them at home.
Is the rate of cement including carriage genuine at Rs 500 per bag.
Is the rate per square feet of Shuttering genuine at Rs 8…??
I would like to know honestly from you. If these are genuine, I would like to read your detailed write-up and if not I would like you to stop playing with the bread and butter of poor fellows of Kupwara.

Disclaimer : Views expressed in this Opinion are author’s own and Inside Kashmir doesn’t endorse it