By Shabir Ahmad
The Government of India(GoI) launched the world’s largest flagship scheme in 2006 and named it as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) with an aim to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work ,who were unable to earn their livelihood. In compliance with the directions of the GoI , the scheme was implemented in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2009 and as per the guidelines of the Act, supporting Staff viz Gram Rozgar Sahayak, Technical Assistant, Programme Officer, MIS Operator, Social Auditors, was recruited by the government through a proper recruitment procedure, for the smooth functioning of the scheme on a meagre honorarium. The recruited supporting staff being highly qualified dedicated their all professional skills and left no stone unturned to make the scheme successful. They worked honestly without any holidays and despite of various hardships made the state of Jammu and Kashmir number. The successful achievement of the targets before the stipulated time is the concrete outcome of the sweat and hard work of this dedicated supporting staff.
It is pertinent to mention here that in the initial stage of the scheme, when MGNREGA supporting staff was not recruited, the department of Rural Development spent mere a handful of allotment in the state and failed to achieve even half the targets. It was only when supporting staff was recruited that the department not only achieved above targets and created good assets, but was given a prestigious award by the GoI for greater achievements and transparency. The department of Rural Development should feel proud about the MGNREGA Supporting Staff, as they are the cream of the department. Initially, this supporting staff was given charge of mere MGNREGA, but with the passage of time when department became aware of their high caliber and talent, was also assigned the charge of other centrally & State sponsored schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission, Pradan Mantri Awas Yojna, CDF,CD-Pyt, CDS, 14th FC,15th FC and so on for better results.
In 2016, GoI took an initiative to Geo tag all the assets of the MGNREGA created till date, through application software Bhuvan, in order to bring greater transparency and accountability. The supporting staff especially the meager paid employee Gram Rozgar Sahayaks, utilized their all skills and geo tagged tens of thousands of assets in just three months, despite of the turmoil, curfews and internet blockage. And, it was just by their praise worthy efforts that department of Rural Development was given an award in Delhi.
Today, however, when almost a decade has passed since the inception, the department of Rural Development has not formulated a job policy till date in order to secure their future. The supporting staff which dedicated the prime of its life in the accomplishment of different types of assignments in the department finds its future dark. The department seems to have sucked their blood and talent like puppets and is in no mood to listen their long pending genuine issue of absorption in the department. The unkept and fake assurance given by the government, in general, and department, in particular, endangered their livelihood and they are left with no other option but to go on an indefinite strike to seek justice. It is heartening (rather counter intuitively) to know that these employees are given threats by the higher ups to call off their strike, as the department seems to have been paralyzed and is unable to deliver , since the supporting in on strike. There is nobody in the government who could listen to them, feel their pain and try to rehabilitate them. In this age of high costs, inflation and so on , they are being paid six thousands rupees (that too on time) is too little to buy even a set of clothes. How they can make the both ends meet?
The attitude of the government is condemnable in every respect. When government can formulate a job policy in favour of illiterate and unskilled one lakh casual labourers , why it can’t accommodate these highly qualified supporting staff, who have taken the department to new heights? In fact, the department of Rural Development of Government of Jammu and Kashmir has progressed in leaps and bounds by the efforts of the supporting staff. Moreover, the department has an equivalent number of vacancies as their strength, so it is not a Herculean task to absorb them all in one go. By following the draconian policies, the government of Jammu and Kashmir is directly alienating the youth folk of the state and darkening their future life. The youth is the future of a nation, if there is any problem with the youth , the problem lies with the state.
The author is a social activist and writes on various issues of national and international import. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org (The views expressed in this article are personal)