The UPA government had launched the National Food For Work Programme last year to generate employment for the rural poor by utilising the surplus grain lying in silos. Business Standard finds out if the initiative has delivered the desired results.
Kokila Soma and Kalyan Prasad are employed in the Kakradhara panchayat in Rajasthan's Dungarpur district under the National Food For Work Programme. Though they started work in November 2004, they got their payments only after May 8.
The NFFWP was launched in November last year in 150 backward districts in the country. It was meant to provide supplementary employment to the rural poor, with part of the wages (25 per cent) to be paid in cash and 75 per cent to be paid in grain. The intentions are noble but, thanks to a variety of banking and non-banking reasons, wages are getting hopelessly delayed.
Kushi Lal Khokhsia, sarpanch of the Kakradhara panchayat, is worried because it is the Gram Sabha, which he heads, that pays these daily wage earners. It is not just Kokila Soma and Kalyan Prasad to whom back wages were due for four months before they were paid.
"The fact is that nearly 370 people working on three sites in the panchayat have not been paid since January. I had been told by the district administration that the money would be available after Holi. The money was sanctioned to the Panchayat Samiti two weeks after Holi," he says.
It takes another 17 days for the money to reach the gram sabha's account (since the two bodies have accounts in different banks), and give or take another couple of weeks for the financial pipeline to become effective Khoksia hopes the money will be available in May.
So is the NFFWP really working for those who need work and rely on this work to eat two meals a day? The Kakradhara experience suggests it is not, if it takes four months for labourers to get their dues.
The problem is simple. Though some families have work, they are paid in fits and starts and the grain component of their wages (75 per cent) also arrives late.
This delay is also induced by bureaucrats. While the scheme has been declared a centrally sponsored one, it is the state government that has been given the responsibility of providing logistical support in transporting the grains to the various gram panchayats.
With most state governments in dire financial straits, when they can find the money, the time and the officials, grain reaches the work sites. It is obvious that the objective of providing food for work is comprehensively defeated.
Projects are taking four months for labourers to get their dues
Families are paid in fits and starts and the grain component of their wages (75 per cent) also arrives late
- States failing in providing logistical support in transporting the grains to gram panchayats