|Right to Food Campaign|
Employment Guarantee Act: Social Audit in Jhalawar (Rajasthan), 31 January - 8 February 2008
In early February 2008 the Rozgar Evum Suchna Ka Adhikar Abhiyan (Rajasthan), and the Hum Kisan Sangathan organised a social audit and jan sunwai in Jhalawar district, Rajasthan. This was to be a follow-up to other audits organised by the Abhiyan (in conjunction with local organisations), in Dungarpur, Udaipur, Sirohi, and Karoli districts. While these audits were planned and executed with the cooperation of the State Government, the Government inexplicably withdrew its support at the time of the Banswara social audit in December 2007. As a result, the Jhalawar social audit reverted to the pattern of a "jan sunwai," in which the same exercise is initiated and supported by civil society organizations.
While the Jhalawar social audit was eventually conducted in five panchayats -- (Manpasar, Banskheda, Banskhedi, Jawar and Awalhera, of Manohar Thana block) -- the experience suggested that resistance to the social audit process is growing, as vested interests become increasingly worried about the effect of increased transparency on corrupt practices in implementing the NREGA. In Jhalawar the Sarpanch Sangh explicitly stated in a memorandum that (in gross violation of the NREGA), "no information would be provided to the Hum Kisan Sangathan." Though the Abhiyan had applied for information on 15 January, information was released only on February 2, that too after a three-day dharna in front of the block office.
Worse was to follow. On February 3, four to five members of the social audit team which went to Bhanskhedi village were showered with lathis and stones barely as they arrived and had to leave the village even before stepping into it. A research team of about seven members faced similar violence when they tried to visit NREGA worksites at Guradi village, while members of the third social audit team that visited Bhanskheda village were also beaten up. It was only after long negotiations with the administration and representatives from opposing groups that the social audit process could resume, with each team accompanied by a senior officer in the Rajasthan adminstration and a police patrol car. Twelve camera teams (six each from the government the Abhiyan) also went along with the audit teams.
The social audit revealed significant corruption in the implementation of the NREGA, to the tune of over fourteen lakhs of rupees for materials supplies in 15 worksites. In Awalhera panchayat, the muster rolls for an entire village had been fudged, while people were being "charged" between Rs. 75 and 500 for job cards in Punyakheri village (dalits were either denied job cards or charged Rs. 1000 per card).
Despite these findings, some signs of hope emerged from a brief survey conducted at the initiative of the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. The survey covered 10 randomly-selected Gram Panchayats (GPs). It found the scale of employment generation to be particularly impressive, with about one third of job-card holders getting 100 days and employment in 2007-8. The survey found much evidence of rapid progress towards effective implementation of the Act in other respects as well. Delays in wage payments are getting shorter and wages are getting closer to the statutory minimum of Rs 73 per day; verification of the "last paid muster roll" at 10 randomly-selected worksites in the survey GPs suggested that even leakages in the labour component of NREGA are relatively small: less than 5% for these worksites. Thus, despite the corruption uncovered by the social audit, it is clear that the system is getting harder to manipulate as transparency safeguards are put into place.
Last updated: 5 April 2008