VELLORE: Despite a workforce of over two lakh in each district across the state, the ombudsman for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) hardly receives 20 complaints a month from each district, not because of the dearth of complaints, but owing to lack of awareness about such an official, say officials.
The state currently has 38 ombudsmen to oversee MGNREGA and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) schemes in each district, but many lack state-level monitoring responsibilities. “While we do have an ombudsman from the Centre, communication regarding grievances often falls through the cracks. State-level monitoring could significantly improve this,” an ombudsman said.
In Ranipet, there are 2.7 lakh MGNREGA beneficiaries with 1.7 lakh active workers. “Since my appointment last year, I still don’t have a computer or workspace. Relying on other departments for technical assistance has proven cumbersome. With basic facilities, I would be able to better manage grievance registrations,” said the ombudsman for Ranipet.
Since 2016, PMAY has been receiving about 20 complaints every month. “Awareness about our role at the panchayat level could give people an avenue to file their grievances. Receiving just 20 complaints is far from satisfactory,” said another ombudsman. The sources added that half of the complaints are addressed at the public grievance day meeting held at the district collectorate and they are forwarded to the concerned departments.
“Most complaints are pre-screened by the rural department. Genuine concerns rarely reach my desk. Public awareness could facilitate addressing general issues within seven days,” another ombudsman for northern districts added. “While this predicament isn’t new to me, our obscurity among the public worsens our situation,” said the ombudsman for the Coimbatore district. “Lack of awareness is the main reason for receiving few grievance complaints from labourers. To raise awareness, we are going on field visits and interacting with people,” said another ombudsman for Dindigul.
However, district administrations claim they are spreading awareness among beneficiaries about the role of the Ombudsman.
“We are providing basic facilities to our ombudsmen and have raised awareness about their roles through self-help groups in rural areas,” Ranipet collector Valarmathi told TNIE.
Vellore collector Kumaravel Pandian said they are spreading awareness about the ombudsman at all levels, while Tirupattur collector D Baskara Pandian added, “We have spread awareness through press releases, newspaper advertisements and information at the panchayat level.”
Additional Director of Rural Development Kumar said, “We are already spreading awareness about ombudsman in gram panchayats and at other levels. We will do more.”