Intensify Campaign for the Mass Registrations
Under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

February 2 was the day that the NREGA was to come into effect across the country. We carry reports from some States, about irregularities in implementation of the EGA and also regarding struggles to ensure its implementation.

Why the Administration is Angry with AIALA

In the wake of the mass campaign being conducted by AIALA from the panchayat to the Block level, the District Administration of Darbhanga has warned through an advertisement in the newspaper that it will take “stern action” against “groups that are interfering with the process of registration by distributing NREGA registration forms”. Such a response ought to be expected in most places. While the operational guidelines laid down by the Central Government promise to provide legal representation to labour organisations in the State Employment Guarantee Council, in real life, the State Government and a grudging bureaucracy fee the initiative of labour organisations is an obstruction. The Administration would like to restrict the registrations to a certain unsaid quota. Various AIALA units have printed application forms in Bihar and other states to help the aspirant poor families in view of limited supply of the same by the governmental agencies. At most of the places it was found that Panchayat Secretary and Block office are not willing to accept those forms, unless enough mass pressure was created through the agitation, as this will break the existing monopoly of the ruling elite in controlling the scheme.

Panchayat Offices Are Non-Functional: Where Are Labourers to go for Registration?

Since most of the panchatyats are non-functional, often without any building or office,

and panchayat heads are usually notorious for their anti-poor character, the first stage of registration itself is an uphill task. panchayat secretaries remain absent, despite prior imformation, and labourers have to remain empty-handed. At Darbhanga, 150-600 workers participated in the Panchayat-level demonstrations.

Even if labourers get registered, they do not get any receipt on the basis of which they can claim job cards. After this long and tiring battle, lakhs of registration forms have been deposited, but job cards have not been goven. Through AIALA alone, around 5 lakh forms have been submitted in Darbhanga, Jehanabad, Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Bhojpur, Gaya , etc..., but even two weeks after February 2, job cards are not yet available.

Rather, there are unwritten instructions from the Administration, discouraging registration and job cards. Because if job cards are distributed in large numbers, labourers will demand jobs. And if the Administration fails, it must provide unemployment allowance: something the Administration wants to avoid. In fact the political will and machinery required to implement such a huge scheme is missing.

So the work has neither started nor has the Administration any plans to provide jobs in the near future. The Government must prepare an alternative structure to implement this Scheme but it wants to get it done through the same old machinery, which is now busy preparing for Panchayat polls. So it is certain that the Scheme is going to be left hanging, unless powerful mass mobilisation ensures otherwise.


A district level review camp was organised by the All India Agricultural Labour Association in Darbhanga on Feb. 15 to assess the actual state of implementation of the NREGA and to discuss the problems being faced by the village/panchayat level activists in the process of registration for the the job cards under this Act. Nearly 100 representatives from 70 villages participated in this camp.

It was a general complaint that the government has supplied the application forms in limited number at panchayat levels and the panchayat Secretaries are brazenly showing discrimination in distribution of these forms. Moreover, there are reports that the application forms are being sold by concerned officials at a cost, up to Rs. 50 per form. Additional money, Rs. 35 - 50, is also being charged for the photographs. In contravention of the provisions of the Act, neither meetings of gram sabhas have been called by the concerned block and district authorities nor any survey was conducted to facilitate the registration process. At almost all the places central and state governments have not accomplished the ground work to fulfil the requirements for the implementation of the scheme, as was supposed to be done before the commencement of the Act.

AIALA unit in Dharbhanga has taken up an agitational programme from Feb. 24 to Mar. 6. Mass submission of application forms through organised demonstrations will be done from Feb. 16-24; ‘ Ghera Dalo- Dera Dalo ' programmes will be held at all blocks on Feb. 24-28. and a massive Collectorate march, primarily by women agrarian labourers, will be held on March 8 in this campaign. Similar programmes will also be undertaken in other districts of Bihar .

The review camp was presided over by AIALA General Secretary Dhirendra Jha.

Bhojpur : Irregularities were observed from the very first day when job cards were issued to many without properly completing registration process, while many workers failed to submit even their application forms. Applicants have no proof of their applications submitted as no receipts are being given as required by the law. Many people could not submit their forms as Panchayat Secretary and village heads were absent at many places.

AIALA took up agitations and organised cadre meets followed by sit-in programmes at block level. More than 3000 people gheraoed BDO Office in Sandesh, while hundreds of people entered inside the hall where BDC meetings were going on at Piro and Jagadishpur blocks, in protest. A demonstration of more than a thousand people was held at Udwantnagar Block office. These protests created enough pressure over the administration and the latter had to agree to the demands, at least in principle, and ordered the panchayats to issue the receipts for every application.

Initiatives in Jharkhand:

Jharkhand government declared to launch a campaign for the registrations and to conduct a propaganda to 'educate' the rural poor from 2-15 February. Big advertisements were published in newspapers but nothing was visible at the ground level. Prospective candidates for this scheme are very poor and in villages no one reads a newspaper. A large section of them are illiterate. It was also announced to hold gram sabhas at panchayats, but these were not held at most of the places. And wherever they were held, respective officials were either totally absent or went there to complete the formality and came back in 10-15 minutes. Moreover, adequate number of registration forms were not there when gram sabha were being held. At some places only 10 or 20 forms were available and those were sold at a price of 2 to 20 rupees. When CPI(ML) and Jharkhand Mazdoor Kisan Samiti distributed application forms, they were not accepted with officials saying that only government printed forms are valid. Which is a false propaganda by the govt. machinery.

The proforma of the application forms as given in the 'NREGA Operational Guide Book' does not have a space for the receipt (counter-foil). Keeping in view the attitude of the authorities it is not difficult to understand that this is being used to dilute the provision for providing employment within fifteen days or the unemployment allowance. One more problem is providing photographs. Photography for the job cards is to be done by the authorities and a proper funding mechanism has been described in the Act. But, photos are being demanded from the applicants along with the forms, and an atmosphere is created that without photos they might be left out. If these practices are not stopped immediately, such atmosphere will pave the way for greater corrupt practices ultimately making this Act as ineffective as its predecessor schemes.

JMKS has taken an initiative for the mass registrations and has printed two lakh forms for the campaign. At many places forms have been submitted to the appointed officers and wherever panchayat officials are showing reluctance, mass submissions are carried out through big mass protests. In Barwadih block of Latehar district administration is still insisting for the photographs. It has agreed to accept forms only after the mass protests held at panchayats and block. In Daltonganj and Chainpur blocks in Palamu, agitations forced the administration to accept forms of those people who were earlier denied for the same. As individual receipts were not given to the applicants, JMKS forced the authorities to issue a collective receipt to the organisation with total number of forms accepted clearly mentioned. Administration in Garhwa had to agree to the JMKS demand for conducting photography of the applicants, after a series of protests. Now district authorities have assured to provide cameras at every block.

In the mean time decisions are being taken by other blocks and district level committees for massive mobilisations and protests in order to cull the corrupt and anti-people attitude of the administration at the initial stage itself. District level bigger mobilisations will be organised in coming days.

But a question still remains, and will acquire prominence when the actual work under this scheme really commences. That the wage to be provided under this scheme stands equal to the minimum wage for the agricultural workers in the respective state. It is Rs. 58 per day in Jharkhand. The current wage rate for the heavy earthworks like digging and transporting soil is Rs. 74 or more. Is the minimum wage rate as decided for the Act is justified?

Uttar Pradesh

As per government announcements, the NREGA was to become operative in 22 districts of U.P. since February 2, and accordingly the job cards were to be made available at Panchayat level latest by Jan. 27. But in most of the districts, the cards were not provided even after February 2. Obviously, the absence of the job cards only means that the launching of the scheme from the declared date has failed. Since the beginning, there are reports of irregularities from many places – for instance, village Pradhans taking money from the labourers in the name of photography for job-cards, despite official claims that fund worth Rs. 25 lakhs has been released for the purposes of job card printing, employment register and photography.

CPI(ML), through a memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister Mulayam Singh, has reminded him that apart from above anomalies, U.P. is notorious for scams and rampant corruption in various schemes implemented in the name of the poor. Memories of the megascam in the food-for-work scheme involving many higher-ups is still fresh in public memory. However for obvious reasons, the government had not conceded the popular demand for a CBI inquiry into the scam.