Patna, 29 May-2014, TNN: The Bihar government is likely to pay unemployment allowance to the people to whom it fails to provide work under MNREGA. The rural development department (RDD) is preparing a draft proposal to the effect for the cabinet’s approval.
As per the provisions of the MNREGA Act, if a job seeker is not provided work during the 15 days from the day s/he asks for work, s/he is entitled to get unemployment allowance.
RDD minister Nitish Mishra during a review meeting noticed over 72.5 lakh job card holders did not ask for work between 2006-07 and 2013-14, arousing suspicion that either they did not need work or they did not exist or live in the state.
The minister said of the 1.26 crore cards issued by the department to the applicants, only 53.5 lakh used the cards for seeking work. “We suspect some cards, if not all, are being misused. We have therefore decided to cancel all these 53.5 lakh cards and reissue them after thorough verification,” Mishra told Times of India and added all the job seekers would have to apply afresh.
The government in fact has decided to cancel all the 1.26 crore job cards. But the 72.5 lakh job card holders, who have never sought work by using it, would not be issued fresh cards.
There have been allegations that many people got the job cards issued in their names even though they did not need it. There are also complaints that cards in the name of dead, non-resident and non-existent persons were also issued and being misused.
Most of the card holders who did not use their cards belong to Madhubani, Araria, Bhagalpur, Bhojpur, Darbhanga, Katihar, Muzaffarpur, Nalanda, Patna, East Champaran and West Champaran, Purnia, Samastipur, Saran, Sitamarhi, Siwan and Vaishali districts.
Meagre wages could also be the reason why many card holders are not applying for work. Rules prescribe wages of Rs 162 per day under MNREGA whereas it is higher if one works privately. “MNREGA is kind of last resort for the poor. They apply for work when they fail to get work elsewhere,” Mishra admitted.
To minimize the scope of misuse of job cards, an e-Shakti card project will be initiated for the entire state. As a pilot project, e-Shakti cards were prepared in Patna district. “E-Shakti cards are biometric cards having the impressions of fingerprints,” Mishra said and added the new job cards would be hopefully e-Shakti cards.