The Saplings of Corruption

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is working only on paper in some districts of Bihar. The government officials and Panchayat representatives have wasted money that was meant to give employment to villagers by planting trees. Sheikhpura district in Bihar has 58 Panchayats where trees were to be planted. An amount of Rs. 1 crore was sanctioned for the plantation, but hardly any new plants can be seen in the area. Rs. 4,651,096 were given to plant 22 units of trees in 10 Panchayats of Barbigha block but besides the Samas Buzurg Panchayat, only 10 units of trees have been planted in 9 Panchayats. One unit is equivalent to 200 trees. One unit is supposed to give 100 days employment to every labourer by way of watering the plants. According to the files of MGNREGS, 10 units of saplings have been planted, and the sanctioned amount of Rs. 2,114,130 has been spent. The areas that have been mentioned in the files as having been covered under the plantation programme hardly have any new trees and the saplings have also died due lack of water and proper care.

In this case the role of Panchayat Mukhiyas, the Gram Sewaks and programme officials is suspect. The Panchayat Mukhiyas and MGNREGS officials withdraw the money of labourers from the post office, and the labourers get a paltry sum out of it. According to Arvind Prasad, a resident of village Jagdish, all the work under MGNREGS is done only on papers and the labourers get nothing. Umesh Singh of Teus village said that trees might not have been planted but the all the sanctioned money has been pocketed by the officials. A labourer from Paank village said that the Gram Sewak gave him just Rs. 3,000, but he wasn’t asked to sign anywhere. And when he asked for money for the work he had done, he was told that there was no money left in the account.
When the District Magistrate was asked about this, he said that planting trees in the area is an ambitious project; this is the first stage, and he would appreciate the Mukhiyas efforts for this. He said that if they are punished then the project will be adversely affected. Not only this, at many places the work under MGNREGS was done by child labourers, and when the Deputy Development Commissioner was asked about this he got furious. It is quite clear that employing child labourers is quite convenient: they are not entitled to job cards and thus their wages can be bungled at will.
Sanjay Singh, the District Magistrate, held a meeting with the Panchayat Members to goad them to plant as many trees as possible, but lakhs of rupees have already been embezzled in the name of tree plantation.

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