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March 8, 2013

Trinamool MP Saugata Roy speaks on implementation of 100-days-work scheme at Lok Sabha

Trinamool MP Saugata Roy speaks on implementation of 100-days-work scheme at Lok Sabha
Chairperson Sir, I stand to second the amendment tabled by Hansraj Ahir ji on Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act Bill (MANREGA) (2010), I take this opportunity to congratulate him for tabling the amendment. I am happy that this bill is a bit bipartisan in nature, the UPA government introduced the bill. The members from the BJP also are interested in implementing this bill. I agree that the intention of this bill is honest and being bipartisan in nature is good. Many members feel that the good work should be collectively carried forward.
This scheme is in force in Maharashtra since 1972 and other states also introduced the same in their respective states since everybody wants to help farmers especially when they have no work. After introducing this bill the constraints in financial and resources were resolved since all the separate employment schemes united to resolve the problems. This law has been in force since eight years. Hansraj Gangaram Ahir ji has suggested amendments to be brought in this bill. He suggests `Broaden the base of the bill`. All the names of the adult members in a family are included in the job-card but still one family member`s name is suggested when it comes to offer employment. He has suggested the removal of this restriction. When there are other members also then why there should be notification on one member and not multiple members.  
Secondly, he wants an amendment in the `100-days-work` module. There are 52 Sundays and if we deduct Sundays from 365 days then the total number of working days comes to 313 days which should be taken into account. Then why a person under this scheme should not get work for all the working days. If due to any reason they are unable to get work then they should be given the unemployment allowance as suggested in the law.
I support this scheme on principle, I have a few questions regarding the bill. This bill can be regarded as political game changer since both Congress and UPA have gained a lot out of this scheme. I agree this is a good scheme and has been able to bring some change in the lives of the rural people. I was talking to Meghwal ji who is from Bikaner, Ahir ji from Chandrapur in Maharashtra, they are quite experienced people. I want to seek their suggestion and views. I come from West Bengal and I can see positive work is taking place in MANREGA. During the previous government in Bengal the average working days under the 100-days scheme was 12 and it has increased to 33 days after our coming to power in the State. I am hopeful that by the end of this year we will make it to 50 days. I want to ask why nothing is being done to in this regard. I feel it is the time to think why there is no increase in the 100-days work when government is planning to allocate funds.  
I want to attract your attention towards the workers being given the task to dig a specific cubic feet but none could complete the specific quantity. If 100 cubic feet is a standard, workers end up digging 40 to 50 cubic feet. Their wages are deducted accordingly.
To worsen the situation there are musclemen who demand share and say that they too are in the committee, those who do not deserve take away money. The officer fraternity feels happy that without doing any work they take the money. There is no effective monitoring.  I would say that this list should connect rural development. I was a MLA in a rural area some time back and I remember there was a river which was covered with hyacinth. Naturally, we wanted to clean the river and asked the MANREGA workers but I was told by the DM that they do not have cleaning of river on their list, this may be a problem of a specific constituency. I feel there should be more generalize list. During the previous government the target was kept at 96 cubic feet and we have reduced it to 69 to 70 cubic feet after our government came to power in the State. We in Bengal are weak physically as compared to those in Rajasthan.
Prof. Saugata Roy (Dum Dum): Sir, average farmers in Bengal are physically weak than their counterparts in north and north-west India who have an Arian ancestral origin. We lack in height and are under nourished. Basically, we have Dravidian and proto-austroloid mixture. The Adivasi people in the state are well-built and can participate in laborious works. This is why average boys and girls coming from these regions are good in sports like Hockey. There should be some flexibility in the law in this regard. Sir, I would like to mention that there are many jute-mills in the area where I belong. There are small villages and more industrial areas. There are nearly 80 percent of traditional jute-mills in these areas and average labours are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar since they are required to do a lot of laborious work. After interacting with the jute-mill employers, I came to know that employers have tough time in finding labours to work in these jute-mills. They demand an increase in the daily wages. We have to ascertain that MANREGA should not make people lazy. Average now feels that they will earn a certain amount by staying in their respective states and do not want to come to Kolkata or other big cities for employment.
Considering the socio-economic-condition, I think that time has come to make a re-assessment in MANREGA proposals. There is much to do in the infrastructure of villages.  Initially, it was food for work then came `Sampurn gram samridhhi yojna` and MANREGA came much later. Meghwal ji was telling that there is 60 percent waste cost and 40 percent material cost, there some balance. Have we made any assessment of how many permanent assets were made under MANREGA or how did people receive money without working? Our mission in MANREGA is to create a permanent asset base, not to make people lazy and use the money and human resources for the development work. All the three aspects should be monitored.
Shri. CP Joshi, the predecessor of Shri. Jai Ram Ramesh, created a monitoring and vigilance committee in all districts in the country. I come from North 24-Parganas which is quite vast with five-MPs from the area. I am the Chairperson of the monitoring committee.  We do not get the opportunity visit places and take stock of the work personally. The DM submits reports based on which we conduct meetings. We call meetings which are attended by the MLAs and Panchayat chairpersons. The meetings are organized since as per the law money is not released without having a meeting with the vigilance and monitoring committee. Some MLAs attend these meetings while many abstain from attending them.  The Panchayat Sabhapati has his interest to get the work done.  We have to make sure that increase in number of days in MANREGA takes place. As I have already mentioned earlier, we completed 33 working days which was 12 days during previous government in my State and hopefully we will make this number to 50 days. I ask why this cannot be increased to 70-80 days. Ahir ji says people should be given work thorough the year, this is good suggestion. Also we need to asses if the entire amount is being spent on the projects. The work is pending in spite of the allocation of funds. The financial memorandum attached with the bill says an extra Rs. 20,000 crore is required. I am not sure on what basis they said this, may be they predicted. Chidambaram sahib did not allocate any amount for MANREGA in his current budget, only Rs. 33,000 crore has been allocated in MANREGA. The Minister in his earlier speeches said that Outlay is not important, outcome is important which means that it makes no sense unless you spend the allocated amount. This becomes theoretical.
Why the entire money is not spent? One hand it is said that you have introduced the scheme under the name of Mahatma Gandhi to eradicate poverty. This is a game changer. As told by Meghwal ji that Rs. 7.5 thousand crore remains unspent. May be this is the reason why there was no further allocation in MANREGA. There is a financial crunch in all schemes. You say that you will give food subsidy for all and by giving an extra Rs. 10,000 crore you will be able to complete the process of subsidy. We will talk about this during discussion ob budget. I am personally supporting your proposal on principle since I believe it should be the democratic right of any person who wants to work on any day of the year to get work from the government. Whether to do or not is different issue but this is the democratic rite.
Meghwalji comes from Bikaner and the region is desert are, working there is impossible since most of the places there are covered with sand. There is no other work other than planting of trees, digging of well, digging of ponds. We have to ensure the development and betterment of villages, how to change the face of the villages with the huge human resources available to us.
I am concluding. Sir, Is the MANREGA a success in your area? All the tribal people have become Maoists there. Jai Ram ji went to Jharkhand, a large number of people have turned Maoists. I support the bill on principle. I want the entire process to be democratic. I want a proper assessment in MANREGA to after eight years, there should be a list of assets created during this time and also about the number of days people have put their labour. Also what stops us from spending entire amount and how to improve the MANREGA scheme? This is a game changer, it helps to attract votes, enables to reach out to poor people in villages. We will have to see how to make things better .
Shri. Hansraj G Ahir comes from a very remote area in Chandrapur.  Maoists have reached in the areas like Gadchiroli which has acute poverty. Other places in Maharashtra are better but places like Vidarbha is backward. If we want to bring changes in our country then we will have to think of broadening the sphere of MANREGA.
I conclude my speech with these words.