Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jobless tribals

Since morning a team of five of us (Tamagna, Shampa, Akbar, Shubhra and me - the first three being staff of SMOKUS, a local NGO) spent a lot of  time in Chak-Bhabanipur, a tribal village beyond Dalimgaon, about 15 kms from Kaliyaganj town in West Bengal India. After that we visited two other villages Uttar Jagtala and a hamlet in Dhankail and returned late in the evening to  Raiganj for stay. The visit was mainly to see how people of these villages, mostly tribals, are utilizing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for their benefit. As we got into the Chak-Bhabanipur village we saw a freshly dug pond, completed under the scheme initiated by the government against the act. We asked the people how many of them worked in it. They said, "None". Why? These people had not worked for more than three years. Reasons were mind-boggling. (a) The tribals of   the village had given their job cards to the local government officials (panchayat) years before, and they were told that the people will lose the Job Cards if it is with them, when the jobs are available they will be informed! (b) About three years ago, the local post master took their Pass Books since their accounts into which their job money was being transferred was in the local post master saying that he needs these books to update the books! They never got back the books. Meanwhile the post master died ! Ha...ha..ha.. Now the new postmaster says that he has no knowledge of the Pass Books of these poor tribals. But he needs the old Pass Books to update their account numbers as the Post Office has to issue new account numbers. 

Since the time the local NGO workers started visiting the villages after I and Shubhra gave the last training in early January, on 28 / 29 Jan 2012, the local government officials gave the Job Cards back to a community leader. And we were able to see some of their Job Cards. These people, with instigation from the NGO staff went to ask for works. The government officials are saying that unless they show the new account number they cannot give these people work, because they cannot transfer the money!  

So, should we blame it on the dead postmaster! Damn it, let him go to hell! But what about the living ones? I have taken photos of some of their Job Cards. Will write in my next blog on the discrepancies found in the records of NREGA website and the records found in Job Cards.

Before closing: Who dug the pond? The people of higher caste from neighboring village!

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