Jan Jagaran Abhiyan update on NREGA implementation in Bihar
- "I want world sympathy in this battle of right against might"
M.K. Gandhi, Dandi, 1930
2nd February 2009, JJA supporters threatened subtly and not so subtly to
stay out of panchayat level mobilizations for NREGA by an assorted group of
block and panchayat level elected representatives. Before this on visits to
Jamua panchayat similar threats were metted out to them by the local
Mukhiya, her husband and supporters.
The Jan Jagaran Abhiyan (JJA) a nascent group working in Araria, believes in
a just and equitous society. In it's endeavour to reach out to the last
person it has found the NREGA a useful tool for mobilization. For a high
out-migration district like Araria the NREGA also promises work in the
village and thus saving workers from hazards of an unknown land and giving
them a chance to stay back in their village and plan for it's development.
*November 17-21st:* Abhiyan carried out it's first padyatra, focusing on
spreading awareness about the NREGA and also motivating workers to apply for
*December 12th, 2008:* Post Padyatra workers tried getting their
applications received at the GP level, failing which a collective meeting
with the PO was conducted on December 12th, 2008. The PO received work and
job card applications.
*December 28th ï¿½29th, 2008: *Even when the NREGA states that workers
demanding work should be given work within 15 days of their demand no works
were opened even when the 15 days were over. Given this scenario workers and
JJA supporters gathered at the 4 panchayats where they had asked for works
with the slogan "kaam nahin to bhatta do".
Rozgar diwas, workers ask for work at GP Sharanpur (29-12-2008) and GP
Kismat Khawaspur (28-12-2008)
The Rozgar diwas threw up the same results in all 4 panchayats, there was no
work to be opened at the GP level.
In the meanwhile Abhiyan karyakartas and supporters held panchayat level
meetings in three neighbouring panchayats (Bangama, Chikni and Rampur
Kodarkatti) where the same twin policy of spreading awareness and motivating
workers to ask for work was adopted.
Another 15 days passed and still nothing. Feeling that nothing would happen
if we kept waiting a large mobilization was planned for 29th January, 2009.
Abiyan supporters went around the 8 panchayats where contacts had been made
and workers had applied for work.
*29th January 2009 Block Level Protest*
Our primary demands for this block level protest were:
*1- **Ensuring that work is given to people who demand work.*
*2- **Pay unemployment allowances due to workers. *
*3- **Ensuring that bank/post office accounts are opened in a speedy
*4- **Till accounts are opened cash payments should be continued and
orders issued in this regard. ***
*5- **Availability of the PRS at the GP level should be made known to
GP residents through public notices. Along with the Rozgar diwas (to be held
weekly on Wednesdays in every GP) GP offices need to be open on a daily
basis to address the isues relatred to NREGA at the GP level. ***
*6- **Making job cards available with all workers and that the cards
are not hoarded by representatives and middlemen. ***
The entire proceedings of the event started at around 12 noon. After sharing
the contents of the memorandum and presenting the same to the PO, the PO was
invited by a delegation of worker representatives from each panchayat, to
address the gathered workers and address their demands.
To our first demand for work, the PO assured the gathering that even when
the PRS were on strike, he would make alternative arrangements and start
works, by February 5th, in Panchayats where demand for work was raised. He
was however reluctant to receive unemployment allowance applications and
refused to do so. To the other demands there were clear assurances but we
reached a stalemate since the PO refused to receive the unemployment
After hours of negotiations, with failures the PO finally accepted to
receive applications for unemployment allowance. A small but significant
Since the 29th the events have gone in following manner:
*31st January 2009* Work started in Jamua GP,
but disrupted by Mukhiya and Mukhiya pati, with their supporters. Next 5
days works opened but each day a new problem is faced like work venue is
shifted almost daily, no muster roll is kept on site, workers report for
work but are asked to come the next day.
started in GP Chikni but stopped after 5 days.
*2nd February 2009* A few elected
representatives of Araria block convened a meeting, in Araria Dak Bangla, at
which a one sided discourse against the activities of the JJA was made by
the Jamua Mukhiya.
*7th February 2009* So far works proportionate
to demand have not been opened in any of the 6 panchayats from where demand
has been made and no communication on the unemployment allowance has been
received from the administration.
We were able to raise this issue of Araria block at a Jan Sunwai on NREGA
held in Patna on February 9th, 2009, also attended by the Principal
Secretary, Rural Development, Bihar Government. We were disappointed to hear
the Principal Secretary say that the district administration had informed
him that workers who had applied for work don't turn up for work when
notified. However the silver lining to this dark cloud is that the Secretary
also informed us that he did not believe the reporting and would send a team
from Patna to look into the matter.
So far things look well, given the MP, UP and Jharkhand experience where
workers struggles have resulted in granting of unemployment allowance we are
optimistic that our struggle will also meet a positive result. But at the
same time our priority is to get work, a dire need in this high migration
area. Once works open we are also planning to see how quality of works can
be improved and useful works done and gram sabhas made functional to ensure
Sangharsh buland hai, nirman ki tayyari hai
(The struggle is on, we are preparing for constructive work).
We will keep you informed on the developments in the struggle and the forms
of constructive work takes ï¿½ health, education ï¿½?
About the JJA
The JJA, Araria grew from our involvement in coordinating an intensive
survey on National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
initiated by the G.B. Pant Institute (Allahabad University) and Prof. Jean
Dreze. The survey was conducted by and focused on assessing the ground
realities of in two districts of Bihar, namely Kaimur and Araria. The survey
also had related campaign activities like awareness generation, checking if
transparency safeguards were in place to check corruption and documentation
of irregularities and cases of corruption.
Lack of awareness about NREGA entitlements amongst workers is very high and
so the survey was a good way to generate awareness to ensure that people
know that 100 days of work is a right. As part of checking the transparency
safeguards we also did some muster roll verification exercises (kind of
social audit) and found a leakage of about 50 % in wages that have been
These activities generated a lot of interest amongst local groups and people
who are genuinely interested in issues of social change. This interest
became the basis of the formation of the 'Jan Jagaran Abhiyan, Araria' which
is focusing on NREGA, Right to Information (RTI) and issues of justice.
The Abhiyan does not take institutional funds, for the past six months it
has been running on individual donations from friends, supporters and well
wishers, if you feel you would like to support our activities, you could
send us your contribution in Indian Rupees. The Abhiyan is not a registered
organization but we maintain our accounts and issue receipts for the
donations we receive. Our expenses from 5th October to 5th December were
given in our last update before this all expenses were voluntary and the
Abhiyan made no reimbursements, though for flood relief work we took
institutional and individual support (budget for which has already been
sent). We will send future accounts updates like the last one from time to
You can contact us at:
Ashish and kamayani
A-5, Siddharth Apartment,
Jagdeo Path, Off bailey Road,
Patna, Bihar- 14. ph: 9771950248, 9973363664