This has come to light after Deputy Commissioner of Churachandpur district, Sumant Singh (IAS) directed SDOs/BDOs concerned for fresh census of households in villages that are implementing the NREGS.
The result of the house-counting exercises at each of the village has revealed a mind boggling trend of Village Authorities reporting inflated number of non-existent households to claim more jobcards and thus more money to pocket for themselves.
“The house counting survey was resisted and resented by many Village Authorities for obvious reasons. The Village Level Workers (VLW) who were entrusted with the task of conducting the census faced threats from village Chiefs and UG elements,” disclosed SDO/BDO of Henglep, Ranjan Yumnam (MCS).
Despite the threats, the VLWs submitted their findings which led to 337 bogus/ghost jobcards being detected and cancelled. The financial implications of this purge are significant.
In one year with 100 days of work guaranteed under the NREGA at the rate of Rs. 81.40 per day for each jobcard holder, money saved to the government exchequer because of this cancellation works out at Rs. 27,43,180 and in the next four years in which the NREGS is to continue, money thus saved would be Rs. 1,09,72,720.
“If this can happen in Churanchandpur district, where the record of NREGS implementation has been better, if not exemplary, it can be surmised that there could be similar manipulation of households data in other blocks — and in other districts as well which needs to be rectified,” observed Ranjan Yumnam, who is also Programme Officer of NREGS in Henglep, a block which is notorious as the Kargil of Churachandpur because of the challenging nature of administration and topography there, compounded by dozens of UG groups of different tribes and affiliation operating in its jurisdiction.
It may be mentioned that Deputy Commissioner Sumant Singh, IAS is reportedly among the top ten best District Programme Coordinators of NREGS in the country.
Nevertheless, the Village Chiefs are not happy and claim that their households population is based on the Hills House Tax record.
This is true but the district administration has decided that Hills House Tax alone cannot be a reliable guide to determine the actual number of houses existing in the village as the Village Authorities can pay more Hills House Tax to show more imaginary houses on paper.
For now, the row has subsided and district administration seems to have had its way.
One significant tool in the hands of the Programme Officer of Henglep was the input of the army. The army for its own purpose documents authentic data of every village including the number of houses, population, ethnicity details etc.
“By comparing our own records with the army’s, we were able to identify problematic villages that showed major discrepancy and send VLWs to count the houses,” informed the SDO/BDO.
Meanwhile, NREGS work for 2008-09 for Henglep has been kickstarted in Lamdan Kabui on August 22 with a simple function attended by the SDO/BDO of Henglep, Chairman of Chiefs’ Association of Henglep, members of Village Authority and jobcard holders of the village.