MGNREGS Benefits Still To Reach Many Rural Poor

IMPHAL, Feb 6: Because of many unscrupulous elements and discrepancies deliberately manufactured by the implementing agencies, the UPA Government’s flagship program. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is unable to deliver its intended benefits to a large section of the rural poor in Manipur.

‘I possess a job card but I don’t get any job. At Khwairamband Keithel, there is no place for us to sell vegetables. Police and Traffic Police are always hounding us. Left with no other option, I joined sand quarrying work in Iril river bed’, said Thoibi Begum.

Even though the MGNREGS guarantees 100 days of job in a year to the rural people, villagers of Urup Litan Makha were given jobs for only a few days in the last three years, said Thoibi Begum who is a native of Urup Litan Makha.

Finding no use of the job card she possesses, Thoibi Begum used to sell vegetables on the streets of Khwairamband Keithel, but she was perpetually hounded by Police and Traffic Police.

Unable to tolerate such constant harassment, Thoibi took up quarrying work in Aril River in her search for livelihood.

‘It would be a great relief to poor people like us if the MGNREGS is implemented in its true spirit and letter in our village’, Thoibi said.

‘In our struggle to earn a profit of just Rs 5, we had to pay Rs 3 to the police otherwise we were never allowed to sell vegetables at Khwairamband Keithel’, Thoibi said.

Urup is a village located along Iril River and is inhabited by Manipuri Muslims and Meiteis. The village is included under Keirao Makting Gram Panchayat.

Keirao Makting Gram Panchayat Member Nahapishak Begum conceded that the Gram Panchayat could not provide jobs to the villagers     under MGNREGS. In the last three years, villagers of Keirao Makting GP Ward No 11 were given jobs for a mere 22 days, she said.

One primary reason for the inability to provide jobs to the villagers is the failure of the concerned Pradhan and the Block Development Officer (BDO) to formulate proper development programs for the village, she asserted.

Takhellambam Ibechaobi who works together with Thoibi Begum belonging to the same locality echoed the same disappointing voice. ‘Any Government initiative like imparting training about weaving, embroidery etc is invisible in our village’, Ibechaobi said.

‘The little paddy cultivation we did last year was also completely destroyed by flood but we did not receive any aid of relief from the Government. Under such circumstances, life is really hard for us’, she lamented.

Earlier people did not know that high quality sand used in building houses and plaster works is available in Iril river bed. As such, there was very little quarrying work in the river bed.  The good quality of the sand available in Iril river bed was discovered only a few a years back by a Muslim woman from Yairipok.  Now women of the villages settled on either side of Iril river bank at Keirao Makting area have took up quarrying work.

Notably, Iril River is a perennial one making it a good source of high quality sand.  For quarrying work, women set up their own groups which generally comprises of eight members and they built small platforms near the water course for quarrying sand from the river bed.

Usually, they sell the sand at Rs 2300 to Rs 2700 per truck load which is around 120 baskets of sand.

Sand collected from the western river bank is sold at Rs 2700 per truck load while those collected from the eastern bank are sold at Rs 2300 per truck load. The variance in price is due to pathetic condition of the road along the eastern river bank near Urup Litan Makha.

There is no pucca road   in the area besides having no RCC bridge between Irilbung Bridge and Urup Litan Makha. Ibechaobi said that her group of eight members could earn Rs 80,000 last year.

Saying that each member could earn more than Rs 200 in a day, Ibechaobi noted that quarrying could earn more money than weaving.  ‘But we prefer to work under MGNREGS because quarrying sand is a very physically exacting work’, she added.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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