August 1, 2008
These reports from the Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) published in July 2008, give an outline of NREGA scams in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. The full reports, as well as their executive summaries, are given.
Executive Summary of Orissa Report
You may have heard about the loopholes and irregularities in implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the biggest anti-poverty scheme in the history of India. The State of Orissa, however, does not have any loopholes or irregularities in the implementation of this high-profile rural job scheme.In a random survey conducted in 100 villages of Orissa’s 6 districts, we found only blackholes and serious irregularities as the only regular thing in all these villages. Our calculations suggest that about 75 per cent of the NREGA funds spent in Orissa have been siphoned and pocketed by the government officials and this loot has been very participatory and organised.
This survey was conducted during May-June 2007 by Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) to assess and evaluate the performance of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in the state of Orissa. The survey was carried out in 100 villages spread over six districts of KBK (Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput) region, namely; Bolangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada.
The findings of CEFS survey are shocking, scandalous and outrageous. The Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Orissa has been virtually hijacked by officials responsible for the implementation of this scheme. Our survey findings have revealed that there is participatory loot, plunder and pillage in Orissa’s rural job scheme. There is open loot of taxpayers’ money, there is plunder of poors’ right to guaranteed wage employment for 100 days and there is pillage of every single norm of democratic governance and administrative accountability.
It is shocking to note that we could not find a single case where entries in the job cards are correct and match with the actual number of workdays physically verified with the villagers. Out of the 100 sample villages covered for this survey, 18 villages have not received any job card, 37 villages have not received any job under NREGS even after 16 months of launch of the scheme, 11 villages have received neither job cards nor any job, Job cards of 23 villages were lying with VLWs (Village Level Worker) and JEs (Junior Engineer) for more than 6-8 months against the will of card holders.
In 25 villages, only half, one third or partial wage payments were made. In 20 villages, we found scandalous difference in the number of workdays recorded in the job cards and the number of actual workdays given to the workers. There are 3 villages where no wage payments have been made even after 4-8 months of the works done. We found 6 villages in Kashipur block of Rayagada district where NREGS work was being done without any job cards being issued to the villagers.
As per the NREGA Implementation Status Report for the Financial Year 2006-7 (http://nrega.nic.in/states/nregampr.asp), the total number of job cards issued in Orissa was 2593194. Orissa was able to provide 7.99 crore persondays of employment to 13,94,169 households spread over 19 districts of the state.In other words, 13,94,169 families have got an average of 57 days of wage employment. This includes 3.93 crore persondays of employment provided to Adivasis (STs) and 1.89 crore persondays of employment provided to Dalits (SCs). Orissa also claims that 1,54,118/ families in the state completed 100 days of wage employment during 2006-7.But, our experience in 100 villages of Orissa suggests that all these claims are bogus and manufactured only in official records in order to siphon NREGS funds.
Our back of the envelop calculations suggest that less than 2 crore persondays of employment has been provided on the ground and more than 6 crore persondays of employment has been provided only in the pages of false job cards and fabricated muster rolls.We could not find a single family in the 100 sample villages who had actually got 100 days of wage employment. We found very few families who had got 40- 60 days of wage employment. The rest of the families,if at all they have got any employment, it is mostly between 5 to 21 days.However, online job cards of most of these households have false and fabricated job and wage entries for 108 days,104 days,102 days,100 days,96 days,90 days,84 days,72 days,65 days,60 days, 52 days and so on. This is the way Orissa Government has “successfully” spent Rs.733/ crore and provided about 8 crore persondays of employment.
Our back of the envelop calculations suggest that out of Rs 733 crore spent in Orissa during 2006-7, more than 500 crore has been siphoned and pocketed by the government officials of executing agencies.In other words, less than 25 per cent of the NREGS funds have reached the targeted population and more than 75 per cent have been eaten up by sarkari babus. There are thousands of villages in Orissa where more than 80-90 percent of NREGS funds have been misappropriated by the executing officials.
According to the Government of Orissa, each of the needy households in 19 districts of the state was given on an average 57 days of wage employment under NREGA during 2006-7. Our calculations suggest that only about 5 days of average employment has been given to the needy families in the 19 districts of Orissa where NREGA was implemented during 2006-7. How have we arrived at the figure of 5 days of average employment? It is very simple.
First, as per the Government data, about 26 lakh households were issued job cards and only about half of them demanded jobs. It is a manufactured lie of “Chomskyian” variety. Our survey in 100 villages of Orissa revealed that more than one third needy households have not received job cards and over 90 per cent families in rural areas of Orissa are desperate for wage employment. To put it differently, there were about 39 lakh needy households in these 19 districts and all of them were in desperate need of wage employment.Therefore, if the total of 799 lakh persondays of employment is divided among 39 lakh needy households, the average days of employment per household comes to 20 days.
Second, out of the total of 799 lakh persondays of employment given in the official records, only about 25 per cent has actually been given to the people, the remaining 75 per cent persondays of employment has been given only on fake muster roll registers, false job cards and forged official documents. Therefore, the actual average employment per needy household in 19 districts of Orissa comes not to 57 days or 20 days, but only 5 days.To put this in perspective, the NREGA promises 100 days of wage employment to every needy household, the Government of Orissa (with highest per capita allocation of NREGA funds in the country) has delivered on an average only 5 days of employment to every needy family. A terrific accomplishment in the 60th year of India’s Independence!
In the 100 villages of six sample districts where we carried out this survey, we did not come across a single family who has availed 100 days of wage employment. But, see their great performance in the official job records. All these sample districts claim that they have provided 100 days of employment to thousands and thousands of families. On the official records, cumulative number of households which have completed 100 days of employment is 10572 in Bolangir district, 9074 in Kalahandi, 13893 in Koraput, 7581 in Nabarangpur, 11292 in Nuapada and 8357 households in Rayagada district. So, the modus operandi of this great job robbery in Orissa is very simple and clear.
It is impossible to believe that this kind of open loot can be organized without active connivance of the entire state machinery.The NREGS has various inbuilt vigilance and monitoring mechanisms and it is not possible to perpetrate such an open loot of NREGS funds unless it is participatory and organized.
The Current level of hunger, poverty and deprivation in Orissa’s KBK region is as deep, demeaning and dehumanising as ever despite the so- called successful implementation of the NREGS with the highest per capita allocation of funds anywhere in the country. The Rural Employment Scheme has made virtually zero impact on the livelihood security of Orissa’s rural poor.There is no let up in the level of distress migration of Adivasis and Dalits from Orissa’s KBK reason in search of livelihood in other parts of the country. The current level of distress migration in the districts of Bolangir, Nuapada, Nabarangpur and Kalahandi is as high as ever.
On Human Development Index, many of the Sub-Saharan villages would fare better than most of the KBK villages. Hunger and abject poverty are widespread in all the 100 villages of KBK region we visited. Large number of children in these villages are suffering from severe malnutrition. Hunger and abject poverty are apparent and writ large on the hollowed cheeks, sunken eyes and distended bellies of the children.
Social Audit looks like a fraud on the rural poor of Orissa. There has been no Social Audit whatsoever in any of the 100 villages visited by us. There is zero accountability and total absence of transparency in the administration of NREGS.Out of 100 villages visited, we could not find a single Panchayat office open.There was lockout on all the Panchayat Bhawan’s we visited. The villagers told us that these offices open only once or twice in a month.
It is distressing to note that in the implementation of the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, we found complete subvertion of the grassroots democracy. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have been completely sidelined in the implementation of NREGS. Sarpanches are asked by VLWs to sign on blank cheques and VLWs (Village Level Worker) decide everything. In most of the Panchayats, VLWs do not share a single information about the NREGS works in the Panchayat with any of the elected representatives of Gram Panchayat. It is a mockery of grassroots democracy.
Muster rolls are more secret a document in Orissa than the nuclear secrets of the country. We could not meet a single person in these 100 villages who had ever seen muster rolls of the NREGS works in his village. Muster rolls are always kept in the homes of VLWs and villagers who work in NREGS projects are made to sign on blank muster rolls.
In Orissa, Indian citizens and NGOs do need BDO’s permission to see muster rolls of NREGS and they do need District Collector’s permission to go to the Block office or meet BDO.The BDO of Nandapur Block (Koraput district) has instructed all the VLWs of the block not to show muster rolls of NREGS works to anyone without his permission. Since we had found massive financial bungling in many villages of Nandapur Block, we wanted to verify the muster rolls and job cards of concerned Panchayats which were lying with the respective VLWs. But, when we approached the VLW of Raisingh Gram Panchayat, Nagesh Choudhary, he gave us in writing that he needed BDO’s permission to show muster rolls to any body.
When we approached the BDO of Nandapur (Jyoti Ranjan Mishra) the next day, he bluntly refused to show any muster rolls to us unless we did get permission for the same from District Collector or some higher authority of Govt of India. When we contacted Secretary, Panchayati Raj, Orissa Govt (Rabindra Nath Dash) and requested his intervention in the matter, he told us that he would immediately ask the concerned BDO to show muster rolls to us. To our utter shock and disbelief, within half-an-hour we received a call from the Personal Staff of Panchayati Raj Secretary asking us whether we did have permission of the District Collector or any higher authority for meeting the concerned BDO.
When we asked as why did we need District Collector’s permission, he told us as how dare we go to the BDO’s office without District Collector’s permission. He asked us in stern voice to return back from the Block office and not to visit any village in the Block. We also got three telephone calls from APD (Additional Project Director, DRDA-Koraput) asking us not to visit any village of Nandapur block. We had also sought intervention from the offices of District Collector (Koraput), Chief Secretary and Chief Minister of Orissa. Despite all these efforts, we did not succeed in seeing the muster rolls.
This experience in Nandapur block was highly demeaning and disgusting. The whole administrative machinery was pressed into service to cover up the financial bunglings in the block. If this could happen to a research team coming from Delhi, one shudders to imagine what could happen to a poor and illiterate Adivasi or Dalit of Orissa.The sense of fear of bureaucracy among Orissa’s Adivasis and Dalits is not only frightening and sickening but also reminiscient of the British era’s reign of terror unleashed by imperial bureaucracy.
The way Orissa Government is implementing the rural job scheme, this scheme looks like a cruel joke on the hungry and poor Adivasis and Dalits of the state. Brazenness and callousness of Orissa officials involved in the implementation of this scheme is outrageous and unparallel anywhere in India. Activists and NGOs spreading awareness about the NREGS among rural poor of the state are threatened with dire consequences and many have been terrorized into silence by BDOs and other executing officials.The government officials have been behaving worse than any mafia or terror syndicate.When CEFS sent some activists of Orissa to carry out field trial of CDT in some villages of Khariar block(Nuapada district) during July 2007, many villagers refused to tell them as how many days of actual employment was given to them, because the BDO and other officials had threatened villagers to send them to jail if they told any one about their actual days of NREGS employment.
In Tentulikhunti block of Nabarangpur district, the BDO and other officials have threatened NGOs and activists with dire consequences if they point out irregularities in NREGS. Some local activists who accompanied the CEFS research team during survey in Tentulikhunti block in last week of May are being threatened by the government officials and contractors who have misappropriated NREGS funds.One day in the middle of night in July,some drunk goons knocked at the door of one of the activists and warned him of dire consequences.
We wonder whether there is rule of law or proverbial Jungle Raj in the state of Orissa? Are government officials in Orissa public servants and governed by the constitution of India or members of a terror syndicate governed by the rule book of a mafia? Is this the kind of rule of law founding fathers of Indian Constitution had envisioned? Can someone explain to the hungry Adivasis and Dalits of Orissa, who live in constant fear of sarkari mafia, the meaning of 60 years of India’s Independence? Can the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Orissa explain to the starving and mango kernel eating Adivasis of Panasguda, Gottiguda and Bilamal (Kasipur block, Rayagada district) as how many more years they would have to wait for wage employment under NREGA? If these starvation hot-spots have not got any wage employment under NREGA, where has Rs 733 crore been spent in Orissa?
The major part of the NREGS fund has been sucked by bureaucratic blackholes. Only leakages and crumbs have reached the rural poor of Orissa. This scheme has become less of Employment Guarantee Scheme for the hungry and poor villagers and more of a money spinning machine and Income Guarantee Scheme for Orissa’s sarkari babus. Orissa’s officials and agencies executing National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) passed by Indian Parliament are guilty of contempt of Parliament. Every single rule and norm governing this scheme is being observed only in violation in the state of Orissa.The Orissa government will have to take the full responsibility for contempt of Parliament and contempt of Constitution, because NREGA is not another welfare scheme but part of statute book.
Executive Summary of Madhya Pradesh Report
A survey carried out by Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security ( CEFS) has uncovered a Rs.2100 crore scam in the rural employment guarantee scheme of Madhya Pradesh . The CEFS survey was carried out in the state during December 2007-January 2008. This purposive sample survey was conducted in 125 poorest villages spread over 5 poorest districts of M P ( Shivpuri, Chhattarpur, Tikamgarh, Dhar and Jhabua).
As per the data posted on the NREGA official website , Madhya Pradesh (MP) was provided a total amount of Rs. 3288 crore under the NREGS(National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) and was able to spend a total amount of Rs. 2891 crore during 2007-08 . With this amount of expenditure, 2753 lakh persondays of wage employment was given to 4346916 households of the state during this period . In other words, 43,46,916 households of Madhya Pradesh were given 63 days of average employment during 2007-8.
However , the findings of CEFS survey give us a totally different and dismal picture of the NREGS in MP .According to CEFS survey, during first 10 months of 2007-8(April 2007-January 2008), the sample households have got only 10.61 days of average employment and just 2.36 percent of the sample households have got 100 days of wage employment. It is shocking to note that 65.39 percent of the sample households have not received even a single day of employment during the year ( April 2007-January 2008) . Moreover, 38.49 percent of the sample households have never got any employment under the NREGS.
The CEFS study suggests that actually not more than 16 days of average employment was given to the needy households during 2007-8 . Since the sample households in MP were given only 10.61 days of average employment during first 10 months of 2007-8 , the average employment during 12 months of the financial year 2007-8 comes to about 13 days . Even if we add 3 days more on account of margin of error , the average employment figure for the year comes to only 16 days . Therefore , the average employment figure of 63 days claimed by the Government of MP is about 4 times more than the CEFS figure of 16 days.
This difference arises because only about one-fourth (25 percent) of the job figures given by MP Government are actual and the remaining three-fourth (75 percent) of the job figures are based on faked job entries in job cards and muster rolls of the state . So, it is obvious that only about 25 percent of the NREGS funds have been spent on actual employment and the remaining 75 percent of the NREGS funds have been spent on faked job entries in muster rolls and job cards . In other words, only 25 percent of the NREGS funds have actually reached intended beneficiaries and the remaining about 75 percent of the NREGS funds in Madhya Pradesh have been siphoned off by Percentage Raj . To put this in figure, of a total amount of Rs.2,891 crore spent on NREGS during 2007-8 , about Rs 2,100 crore has apparently been siphoned off and misappropriated by executing officials of the implementing agencies. We found irregularities as the only regular thing in the NREGS of Madhya Pradesh .
The loot , plunder and pillage of the NREGS funds in Madhya Pradesh has been truly participatory. A certain percentage of the booty has gone at every level of sanctioning and executing authority starting from the district to block to Grampanchayat. This participatory loot is very well organized and institutionalized .
We were told by many Sarpanches, Panchayat Secretaries and local activists that the NREGS projects are sanctioned and funds released by concerned authorities only after they receive their pound of flesh (a certain percentage of money from project fund) in advance . Unless a Sarpanch or Panchayat Secretary is able to make advance payments of percentage money to various senior officials , the NREGS funds are not released.
We saw innumerable tree plantation projects executed under NREGS without a single surviving sapling or plant .We saw hundreds of miles of tree-guards on either side of roads without a single plant or sapling inside them. We also came across many ghost NREGS projects. We saw job entries and project entries on job cards without any project of that name ever executed in the villages. We also saw many already existing roads , ponds and tanks converted and shown as fresh NREGS projects with just nominal earth work or minor modifications. There are muster rolls with 100 days of faked job entries in the name of government servants and their family members, dead persons, prosperous families , businessmen, teachers , army soldiers and also in the name of family members of journalists .
What is the modus operandi of the great job robbery in Madhya Pradesh ?
First, the officials give hugely inflated cost estimates of the NREGS projects , in many cases 2 times more than the actual cost .
Second, most works in the NREGS projects executed by line agencies and PRIs (panchayati raj indtitutions) have been done by prohibited heavy machines like dumpers and JCBs and very few labourers have been engaged in these projects . This brings down the labour cost to less than one fourth.
Third, since the implementing agency has to mandatorily show 60 percent of the project expenditure on account of wage employment to labourers , this bogus employment is shown through faked job entries on job cards and muster rolls .
Fourth, shoddy quality of work has been done with very poor quality of material used in the projects ; inflated bills and forged vouchers being an essential part of the game .
Fifth , complete secrecy of the project related documents and non-sharing of the project related information with the labourers, civil society groups or citizens .
Transparency safeguards in the NREGS projects are virtually non-existent .There has been no social audit whatsoever of the NREGS projects in any of the sample villages .The virtual absence of transparency and monitoring mechanisms from the ground is main reason behind the crippling percentage raj and participatory loot of about 75 percent of NREGS funds in MP.
The Survey Report was formally released at a Press Conference in Bhopal on July 17th 2008 .