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COVID Continues to Bring MGNREGA Fraudulences Out of Gram Panchayat Closets

Following the media publication of deduction of MGNREGA job card holders’ daily wages, false claims of works, confiscation of bank passbooks and changes of bank accounts without the knowledge of job card holders, many cases of deprivation of daily wages are unfolding now.

However, many job card holders who are struggling to keep their family hearths burning amidst the COVID-19 lockdown are afraid to disclose their names because they would be victimised by the elected representatives of Gram Panchayats and Zilla Parishads.

MGNREGA job card holders of Keirao Makting Gram Panchayat Ward No 4 of Imphal East have not been paid their due wages and they are yet to see their own bank passbooks.

Job Card holders of Keirao Makting Gram Panchayat have alleged that their members and Pradhan have been deducting substantial percentage of MGNREGA daily wages.

The Panchayat executives have been keeping the bank passbooks of job card holders thereby making a mockery of the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system of payment, said Zakir Hussain, a job card holder of Keirao Makting.

Zakir Hussain further said, during the past three years, they worked six times under MGNREGA but they never got their due wages to the full amount.

There are 360 job card holders within Ward No 4. However, there are many mismatching cases regarding names, addresses and photographs inserted in the bank passbooks, he continued.

Moreover, Job card holders of Changamdabi Gram Panchayat of Andro Assembly Constituency had organised a meeting on May 4 and demanded to clear their due daily wages and also to hand over the bank passbooks which are in the custody of Members and Pradhan.

Meanwhile, in a new development, one ex-Pradhan of Heirok Part-I Gram Panchayat of Thoubal District, Saikhom Mantri Meitei, 57 has been arrested for allegedly depriving wages of MGNREGA job card holders.

He was arrested in the night of May 6 following a complaint filed by Laishram Khamba, the incumbent Pradhan of the same Gram Panchayat at Heirok police station. It is said that Mantri, in cahoots with his son fraudulently withdrew wages of many job card holders of Heirok Part-I Gram Panchayat from HDFC Bank, Thoubal branch on May 6.

Mantri was produced before the Court of CJM Thoubal on May 7 and the Court remanded him to police custody for five days.

Reports said that Gram Panchayat Members in different localities of Langthabal Assembly Constituency of Imphal West District too have been holding back bank passbooks and deducting daily wages of MGNREGA job card holders.

On the other hand, Indigenous People’s Association of Kangleipak (IPAK) has received more than 700 complaints till May 8 from job card holders from different parts of Manipur.

President of IPAK Kshetrimayum Somorendro has claimed that some ‘mafias/gangs’ were found misusing the bank accounts of public on studying the Social Information Report gathered by them over the MGNREGA job card holders’ daily wages issue.

The BDOs, District Programme Coordinators (DPCs) and Bank officials should also give updated reports of the job card holders in a specified time. The DCs and BDOs concerned should also direct Members, Pradhans, ZPs and others concerned to handover the bank passbooks to the job card holders at the earliest, Somorendro said demanding that necessary actions should be initiated if the representatives failed to comply with the direction.

Somorendro, claiming that some elected representatives threaten job card holders, further appeals to the State Government to look into this matter too and punish them as per law of the land if found guilty.

Meanwhile, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Thongam Bishwajit on May 6 instructed banks to issue passbooks to genuine beneficiaries of MGNREGA, once the Gram Rojgar Sevaks completes the verification process of the beneficiaries.

Bishwajit also said that once process for verification of job card holders and issuance of passbooks are completed, officials should ensure that physical presence, job card, ATM card and bank passbook are made mandatory for withdrawal of the daily wages.

However, the issue of holding back of bank passbooks, deduction of daily wages of job card holders and manipulation and false claims of work are rampant in almost all the villages under MGNREGA. All the stake holders under this National Flagship Programme to guarantee social security of the rural people in Manipur assume that they can use in whatever manner as they wish thinking that all the money are free fall from the Government as if it is not public money.

One social activist said, if the issue is not investigated thoroughly under an Inquiry Commission and the responsible persons are punished under the law of the land, and the stakeholders from top to down are not sincere and honest maintaining transparency and integrity; the rampant robbery of public money earmarked for the job card holders remains Scot free.

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