Social audits lead to action against corrupt officials

A series of social audits in NREGS works in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district led to unearthing of humungous irregularities and filing of FIRs against several government and panchayat officials and release of delayed payments worth crores of rupees to the ordinary NREGS workers (See details/ links below). The irregularities included the use of sub-standard material, non-issuance of job cards or post office passbooks and fudging of account books.

The audits were organized by the Rajasthan Government in partnership with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS,, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI, and many other civil society organisations between October 1 and October 12 at 11 randomly selected (through draw of lots) village Panchayats of Bhilwara. The district happens to be the parliamentary constituency of the Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Dr C P Joshi who was present on the concluding day of the audits. The audits were spread over 381 gram panchayats in the 11 blocks of Bhilwara district.

Photographs of Bhilwara Social Audit

  Bhilwara Social Audit

Participants in the social audits included 1000 district and block resource persons chosen by the government, and volunteers from people’s organizations from across Rajasthan and 13 other states. Until now two states-- Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan-- have set up Directorates of Social Audits to facilitate the process of fixing accountability in the NREGA works. The Directorates will have committees at the district level with representatives of government, NGOs and local groups whose job is to match the promised benefits with actual fulfillment, act against culprits, and inform the beneficiaries.

Manju Rajpal, the Collector of Bhilwara, played a crucial role in bringing together the administrators and policy makers (such as CEOs of various districts) for conducting the social audits. She has been in news earlier for displaying exemplary courage during social audits in Dungarpur district in April, 2006.

Nearly, 135 groups comprising block resource persons (BRPs) and, district resource persons (DRPs), trained & chosen by the Government of Rajasthan and social activists were formed. These groups visited 351 gram panchayats of 11 blocks of Bhilwara.

During 2008-09, a sum of Rs. 7000 crore was allocated for NREGS in Rajasthan. Out of this, district Bhilwara got Rs. 320 crore. During the 2009-10, the amount for the state was raised to Rs. 10,000 crore. The sheer amount of the funds makes it necessary for the intended beneficiaries to assess how well the NREGS has been running on the ground. The state governments too need to see how far it has been able to generate employment.

The reports were prepared during the Bhilwara social audits by talking at length to the targeted population under NREGS. It was also investigated whether water conservation projects under NREGA were running well and NREGS work was being done on the land owned by the below poverty line (BPL) population and the dalits and adivasis.

Following are some salient features of the Bhilwara Social Audits:

• This was the largest Social Audit of its kind after the enactment of the NREGA in 2005 with the active participation of about 2000 people, organised by the Government of Rajasthan and the Soochna Evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhyan (the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information  or NCPRI) to monitor ongoing NREGA works.

• Divided into 135 teams comprising 15 members each, the participants were given detailed training in the Social Audit process from October 1-3, 2009 at Bhilwara. On October 2, Gandhi Jayanti, the participants gave ‘shramdaan’ of half a day under NREGA rules on work sites chosen specifically for this exercise to gain firsthand experience of the NREGA work ambience. Action Aid, Rajasthan helped in forming a team of 20 disabled persons from 6 states who also actively participated in this exercise.

• From October 5-8, 2009 the teams undertook a “padyatra” (foot march) covering more than 381 Gram Panchayats comprising 1600 villages. 900 NREGA worksites were assessed during this period. On October 9, all the members of these 135 teams assembled at the 11 Special Social Aduit Gram Panchayats.

• All 135 teams were on foot during the padyatra, ate in ordinary village homes and mingled with all without care for caste or creed. They also ensured that they did not accept food or shelter from the representatives of the gram panchayat, and mixed with ordinary villagers.

• Recoveries of delayed payment figures made available thus far (for Suvana Block alone):

Ø      Paldi –             25000/-
Ø      Karoi –           150000/-
Ø      Mangrop –      162000/-
Ø      Dariba –          400000/-
Ø      Peepli –           1000000/-
Ø      Haler-             100000/-
Ø      Total-             18,37,000/-

• The details of the action taken and FIRs lodged thus far from the cases emerging during the padyatra:

Ø      Sarpanch -                                1 (Tasvariya Panchayat)
Ø      Programme Officer-                 2 ( Hurda and Asind Panchayat Samiti)
Ø      Gram Sachiv –                          1 ( Tasvariya Panchayat)
Ø      Employment Assistant –          1 (Tasvariya Panchayat)
Ø      Technical Assistant –               1 (Hurda Panchayat Samiti)
Ø      Computer Programmer –         1 ( Asind Panchayat Samiti)
Ø      Accountant –                           1 ( Asind Panchayat Samiti)

• Union Minister and Bhilwara MP CP Joshi and the MLAs from Bhilwara insisted on social audit of NREGS in the district, despite stiff opposition from the sarpanches. 

• The Social Audit followed the institution of a Social Audit Directorate by the Government of Rajasthan, and is acting as a workshop cum training for the 1000 District resource persons (DRPs) and Block Resource Persons (BRPs) and an additional 1000 civil society/ NGO representatives who will be the resource persons for the Directorate’s continual social audit of the NREGA in every Gram Panchayat and Block in Rajasthan.

• The social audits are seen as the most practical method of ensuring that the money intended for the poor reaches them without any hassle.

• On October 9, 2009 two senior officers from the office of the Director General of the Comptroller and Accounting General (CAG) of India, Dr. Niranjan Pant and Mr Amitabh Mukhopadhyaya, also joined the Social Audit process as observers and witnessed the proceedings until October 11, 2009. The two officials, who are members of a high powered committee formed to see if auditing process could be improved and made more accountable, visited the actual social audit sites in order to get first hand information about the present status of NREGS.

To give an idea of typical proceedings we are giving some observations from a participant representing Inclusive media for Change ( who visited village Taswaria panchayat on October 9:

• Taswaria sarpanch Hardev Jat, who is a relative of MLA and state minister Ramlal Jat, employed the banned JCB machines to get work done in the NREGS sites, which replaced manual labourers. Since the day social auditing started, all work related to NREGS had been stopped. The sarpanch happens to be a PWD road construction contractor.  

• NREGS work started quite late in this block despite the availability of funds.

• The material used in various work sites was of substandard quality.

• Work done under NREGS openly violated the norms and standards as laid down by the NREG Act.

• Balulal, the BRP for social audit revealed of job cards not being offered to willing manual labourers. There has been manipulation in the number of job cards disbursed. Money from NREGS was siphoned off by creating fake accounts in the post offices. This was revealed to Niranjan Pant of the CAG office by Shankar Singh, a social activist from MKSS.

• There exists caste based discrimination in the villages of this block to the extent that labourers are not ready to consume water provided by the so called lower caste persons in the work sites of NREGS.

During the field visit to Khachrol village, Mandalgarh Block (near Triveni Chauraha) on 10 October, the following points were learnt:

• There have been instances of manipulations of the muster rolls.

• Cement and other material for construction are being bought from a particular person.

• There has been undercounting of the people employed in NREGS.

• For the construction of a road in Rajsinghpura, the material cost has been manipulated and the material used has been of substandard quality.

• JCB machines and tractors were used instead of employing needy men and women.

• Job cards have not been disbursed but are kept with the ‘mate’ or the village level record keeper. 

• Absence of crèche facility for mothers of infants

• Persons employed in NREGS are not getting minimum wages.

• Job applications have been neglected. Unemployment compensation has not been paid to many job applicants.

• Only 2 days of work has been accomplished in Masani Nali.

• There exists caste based discrimination in the villages of this block to the extent that labourers are not ready to consume water provided by the so called lower caste persons in the work sites of NREGS.

• In Gopalpura, water conservation work is not taking place.

• Mostly women and old persons have been employed in the backbreaking works done in the hills.

• Chandalal Bairwa’s job application was not granted since he is handicapped.

• Severe irregularities were found in issuing of job cards and non-payment of wages under NREGS.   

• In certain villages, information about NREGS is not reaching the people.

• Not much NREGS work has been done on land belonging to BPL and SC & ST population.

Further readings:

Status of NREGS in Bhilwara, Rajasthan during 2008-09,

Bhilwara Social Audit, Association for India’s Development,

Social Audit in Rajasthan Undertaken by People, October 12, 2009,

How a social audit makes people accountable, 5 October, 2009,

12 FIRs in Bhilwara after social audit of NREGS, 12 October, 2009, The Times of India,

NREGS under scanner in Bhilwara by Sunny Sebastian, The Hindu, 10 October, 2009,

Audit of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, 7 October, 2009,

NREGS audit a relief to poverty-stricken by Narayan Bareth, The Asian Age, 12 October, 2009,

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