Panchayat members taking MGNREGA wages without work in Kerala

The department of local self-government deems this conduct not only unacceptable but also a form of financial fraud.
Express Illustrations.
Express Illustrations.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Have you heard the tale of the fence devouring the harvest? Look no further, as here’s an exemplary instance. The government has discovered that numerous elected representatives in grama panchayats are receiving compensation under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) without contributing any labour.

This rural jobs guarantee scheme is designed to create job opportunities in rural areas, with Kerala boasting an active workforce of 25.18 lakh individuals. Among all states, Kerala provides one of the highest daily wages at Rs 333.

During a social audit inspection and an investigation by the Employment Guarantee Ombudsman, it was revealed that many elected representatives were not fulfilling any employment obligations under the scheme. Despite this, they were illicitly registering themselves in the attendance register and breaching regulations to receive payments. 

Petitions highlighting this issue were brought to the government’s attention. The department of local self-government deems this conduct not only unacceptable but also a form of financial fraud. Though the department is yet to take action against these deceitful elected representatives, it has issued a circular outlining stringent measures to curb such malpractices. 

This decision comes as the government recognises that such tendencies could tarnish the scheme’s reputation and that most elected representatives are not engaging in such fraudulent behaviour.  In response to a request from the Employment Guarantee Scheme Mission director, the government has issued an order to rectify these misdeeds.

The circular explicitly states that elected representatives are entitled to the same rights as workers. “If it is observed that any elected representatives of grama panchayats are receiving wages under the employment guarantee scheme while attending official or administrative council meetings, the received wage will be considered their liability,” the circular emphasises. 

“The amount will be collected from the individual and credited to the scheme’s account. Until the entire amount is recovered, an 18% interest will be imposed. The involvement of the responsible officer will also be investigated,” it says. Additionally, the government has resolved to bring such incidents involving elected representatives of local self-government institutions to the attention of the LSGD Ombudsman.

“The worker is responsible for marking attendance and being present for the entire work duration. Since wages are distributed based on the amount of work completed, registering names in the muster roll without performing any tasks is a serious offence. The responsibility falls on the supervisor and the officials in charge of measurement and checking,” the circular concludes.

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