Right to Information (RTI) activists have used the law to unearth several anomalies in the implementation of the rural employment guarantee scheme (MGNREGA) in Meghalaya and the latest is to be found in Umlyngka, East Khasi Hills where lakhs of rupees have been released even though the requisite work has remained unfinished.
The RTI, filed by Agnes Kharshiing on behalf of locals, also found that at least one family has two members who hold MGNREGA job cards, which is strictly forbidden in the rules.
Among the unfinished projects is one for the ‘construction of big drain at Umlyngka (Dongkynton) from Kynton to Dongmawria under worth Rs 57.09 lakh. It was sanctioned on January 17, 2018 and, strangely, the work was sanctioned without any measurements for the project laid out in the sanction letter. Because the specifications were not mentioned, no one is sure whether the drain has been completed or not. The materials component of the project was Rs 21.13 lakh, with wages amounting to Rs 35.96 lakh for 50 working days or 20,550 man days.
Another project, which appears to exist only on paper, is one for the ‘construction of a well and washing place at Mawsyiem’ for which Rs 12.27 lakh was sanctioned on July 27, 2018. Wages for this project amounted to Rs 7.41 lakh and materials were Rs 4.84 lakh. Local sources, however, said that there is no trace of such a facility in the village.
Another scheme that was incomplete is the construction of footpath from Mawsyiem to the Umiam River with a length of 750 metres worth a total of Rs 8.48 lakh (wages Rs 5.25 lakh, materials Rs 3.23 lakh). A visit to the area showed that the footpath was mostly covered by mud with only a few portions cemented. It was only after the RTI was sought for that effort began to complete the project.
The efforts of the activists were, however, not welcomed, as the local Gram Sevak, along with a crowd of job card holders and some Village Employment Council (VEC) members undertook to ‘inquire’ about the family with the alleged two job cards yesterday.
Strangely, some of this crowd were shouting at and ridiculing a local whistleblower and RTI activist from the village who was blamed for creating trouble in the locality.
The issue of a family holding two job cards strikes observers as even more unfair as there are several marginalized families who had applied for job cards in the village in 2017 but were not issued these lifeline documents. It is learnt that they had all applied at the same time, but some families received two while other families were not given their due of one card.