First social audit in Bihar

I had met Ashish Ranjan and Kamayani (don’t exactly recall where and how) in Waukesha, where he worked for GE. Relocated back to India and then gave up a cushy job to go and work for something that he and his wife Kamayani believe in. The last time we met was when we walked and raised some funds for the Spastic Society.

Today, they run Jan Jagaran Abhiyan. Ashish sent across a note on the first social audit in Bihar which JJA organized – a nice picture of how a large part of the world is so different from the place where I, and most of you reading this, live.

December 23rd, 2009, was a special day in the history of NREGA in Bihar, for it was the first time that there was a social audit exercise in Bihar where the district administration along with a people’s organization (Jan Jagaran Abhiyan, Bihar) organized a SA of NREGA works (2008-09) in Jamua Panchayat of Araria district. One hour into the public hearing violence erupted in front of the Block Development Officer and the Circle Inspector, with the mukhiya’s (elected representative of the Gram Panchayat) men brutally attacking a ward member, who was encouraging a local resident to speak honestly about the injustice of receiving lower wages than those recorded in the muster rolls of NREGA works.

JAN JAGARAN ABHIYAN

9973363664 ashish.ranjanjha@gmail.com; 9771950248 kamayani02@yahoo.com

www.jjabihar.org

PRESS RELEASE

NREGA Social Audit of Jamua Panchayat, Araria District, Bihar completed successfully

Violence erupts during public hearing

Patna, December 27th, 2009:

December 23rd, 2009, was a special day in the history of NREGA in Bihar, for it was the first time that there was a social audit exercise in Bihar where the district administration along with a people’s organization (Jan Jagaran Abhiyan, Bihar) organized a SA of NREGA works (2008-09) in Jamua Panchayat of Araria district. One hour into the public hearing violence erupted in front of the Block Development Officer and the Circle Inspector, with the mukhiya’s (elected representative of the Gram Panchayat) men brutally attacking a ward member, who was encouraging a local resident to speak honestly about the injustice of receiving lower wages than those recorded in the muster rolls of NREGA works. The scene seemed out of control, the latent violence in Bihar had erupted but the scene changed, as the SDO arrived with the police force, and what followed was a successful hearing in which various malpractices, irregularities and corrupt practices were unearthed based on the courageous statements of panchayat residents.

In all 3 social audit teams went around Jamua Panchayat of Araria block (Araria) to verify NREGA records for 11 works (worth Rs. 8.6 lakh rupees) done in the period of 2008-09. The teams were composed of student volunteers, local residents of Jamua and neighbouring areas, karyakartas of the JJA and volunteers from other parts of the country. One of the team members Ram Rai, a member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), Rajasthan who was helping in the SA said “I am shocked to know how little money comes into Bihar panchayats back in rajasthan about 3 crore rupees come every year to my panchayat to cater to the labour needs of about 3500 job card holding families of my panchayat.”

The SA exercise started on December 8th, with the administration providing all the relevant information needed for the SA exercise, the JJA team in it’s turn collated the information in a form understandable to the people and took it to the village residents, encouraging, persuading, and mobilizing them to participate in the social audit process. The result was that at the end of a week’s outreach over two thousand residents of Jamua Panchayat attended the final public hearing and deposed in front of a panel consisting of administrative and civil society representatives.

During the days events it was found that fake muster rolls, bills and vouchers were the most common ways of siphoning money from the NREGA funds. The faults in the records were so glaring that it became obvious that the wrong doers had never braced themselves to face a people’s audit exercise. For example names of about 50 people were found on the muster roll and investigation showed that these 50 did not even belong to Jamua. Brijlal Das, one of the 50 named in the muster roll came to the hearing and said “I never worked in NREGA projects in Jamua Panchayat yet the muster roll has my name and money was taken out from the post office using fake signature”. In another glaring case of corrupt practice the records claimed that Sampatlal Pokharia had supplied tent (for shade at NREGA worksites) worth Rupees 10,200 but Sampatlal in his affidavit given to the SA team said had never supplied tent to any NREGA site in Jamua.

One of the major issues that came out of the public hearing and official records was that 76% of the 1710 job card holders of the panchayat did not even get one day of work in 08-09.

Government representatives (SDO, BDO and CI) reassured the audience that action would be taken on erring individuals, the same reassurance has been given by the District Magistrate (DM), Araria, Mr M Sarvanan.

Ashish Ranjan and Ranjit Paswan

(for the Jan Jagaran Abhiyan)

Contact Number: 9973363664

Update:

Jan 4: Must read article in The Hindu

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