The efficacy of implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the district is questionable. People of Dasmantpur block who were employed under the Act three to four years ago are yet to get their due payment.
Sixty labourers of Kaliambo village under Dasmantpur block were engaged in a field channel work under the MGNREGA in 2008. The estimated cost of the project was Rs 8 lakh and it was completed in July 2008, but the labourers have received only a part of their wages.
"Till now we have received only Rs 200 each as wages. Though we approached the concerned officials many times asking them to pay our wages, they have ignored our request," said Ram Mandingi, one of the Kaliambo labourers. Similarly, at least 40 villagers of Dokamora village in the same block had worked for 10 days in a road construction project in 2009 under the MGNREGA, but are yet to get their full wages. "It has been over two years since the work was completed, but we are yet to get our wages. We were paid for only five days of work. If our wages are not paid on time, why should we work under the MGNREGA?" said Sapurna Saunta, one of the aggrieved labourers of Dokamora.
Another labourer from the village, Suniti Saunta, who was engaged in the same work, alleged they had visited the concerned block development officer (BDO) for the payment of their wages many times, but to no avail. "The BDO is never available at the headquarters. The few times we found him there, he asked us to bring the Gaon Sathi' with us, who refused to cooperate," said Suniti. Like Ram, Sapurna and Suniti, several villagers of Dasmantpur block who worked in several projects under the MGNREGA aired their grievances at a public hearing organized by a voluntary organization in Koraput recently.
The centrally-sponsored MGNREGA provides 100 days of guaranteed employment to at least one member of each rural household.
Social activists allege that officials, in connivance with project contractors, cheat labourers by manipulating the master roll, post office passbooks and job cards. "The job scheme could be instrumental in improving the economic condition of the people, particularly in tribal-dominated Koraput district. But, ironically, it has not been implemented in the district properly," said Achyut Das, secretary of Agragamee, a voluntary organizaton.