Odisha: Mandays up, flight of migrants too

Beneficiaries in various blocks complain of rampant use of machines in MGNREGS works
MGNREGS work being carried out with a machine in Nabarangpur | Express
MGNREGS work being carried out with a machine in Nabarangpur | Express

UMERKOTE: Nabarangpur notched up a record of sorts by generating 1.4 crore mandays of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in 2020-21. It was a year of pandemic and at least 18,203 workers got employment for 100 days. 

The numbers are staggering considering previous years’ statistics. In 2019-20, the district created 58.66 lakh mandays whereas it was 30.58 lakh mandays the previous year and 35.51 lakh mandays in 2017-18. In the first five months of 2021-22, over 43.26 lakh working days have been created.The ground, though, is different. In Chandahandi, Jharigaon, Kosagumuda and Papdahandi blocks, several complaints have been filed with different police stations over use of machines instead of workers in jobs under MGNREGS. 

After beneficiaries submitted written complaints alleging rampant use of machine in works, police sent the FIRS to District Programme Coordinator (DPC), MGNREGS for action. The DPC suspended those entrusted with data entry operation and geo-tagging in Chandahandi, Jharigam, Papdahandi and Kosagumuda blocks. However, higher officials and contractors have gone away scot free.Two months back, a pond digging work in Jatabal reserve forest under the rural job scheme led to allegations. Though no real pond was dug, fake job cards in the names of workers were furnished and lakhs of rupees were pocketed. After the embezzlement came to fore, forester Ram Chandra Jani was suspended in July. 

Similarly, almost every block in the district is witnessing flight of labourers to other states in search of work. According to official sources, over 15,000 migrant workers returned to Nabarangpur during the pandemic but unofficially, the number was more than 40,000. Now, many are heading out and reports of migrant workers meeting untimely death at workplaces is coming in thick and fast. Between April and August this year, nine migrant workers have lost their lives while working in other States.

Sources said Paramananda Gouda, Astu Bhotra, Budan Gouda, Ram Pujari and Chetan Gond of Dabugaon died in Aditod village in Telangana in April this year. Similarly, one Jagdish Bisoi of Papdahandi’s Jabaguda village died while working in a brick factory in Kerala. In June, Judhistir Majhi and Uriah Rupchand of Kanchamal and Khaliguda villages died in Jharkhand. A teenager Chabilal Bhotra of Bhaktaguda village under Dabugaon block died last week while working in a cotton factory in Tamil Nadu. On Tuesday, Chabilal’s family lodged a complaint with Dabugaon police alleging murder of the 17-year-old at his workplace.

Contacted, Nabarangpur Collector Ajit Kumar Mishra said Panchayati Raj members have been instructed to keep record of migrant labourers. They have also been directed to spread awareness among tribals against migrating to other states for work, various welfare and insurance schemes. Besides, the district labour officer (DLO) has been instructed to register names of migrants for provision of benefits under different government schemes, he added.

Former MGRNEGS ombudsman of Nabarangpur Purna Chandra Mohapatra says during his tenure from 2019 to March this year, use of machines instead of workers in execution of works was rampant in the district. “I informed about this practice to the authorities,” he added.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express