In Haryana, a magistrate on mission to teach labourers to sign in; 6,000 master the art

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In Haryana, a magistrate on mission to teach labourers to sign in; 6,000 master the art
© Provided by The Indian Express

A Haryana civil services (HCS) officer is on a mission to teach the labourers employed under under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme to sign in instead of putting thumb impression on the papers to mark their attendance.

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Suresh (40), currently posted as City Magistrate of Fatehabad, initiated the campaign when he was looking after the responsibility of Bhuna block as Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) a few months back. Recalling what prompted him to launch such a campaign, he says: “When I saw applications for approval of execution of work under MGNREGS, I found thumb impressions in front of the names of almost 90 per cent of the labourers. The officials had no satisfactory response when asked if there was to know whether the thumb impressions were of actual job seekers. They stated that in case of any complaint, the thumb impression is sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory, Madhuban (Karnal) as part of the inquiry. In these circumstances, it was almost impossible to find genuine job seekers in routine working.”

After this episode, the officer along with junior officials, launched the campaign, initially in 29 villages, to teach the labourers how to put their names as signature in place of thumb impression. The labourers were taught to read and write their name in 30-minute-long classes during lunch break or after the completion of their daily shift. In a two-month long campaign, the officer says, 75 per cent of the total 8,336 job card holders have learnt to put their signature on paper.

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Fatehabad deputy commissioner Pardeep Kumar told The Indian Express: “Now, we will undertake this campaign in the entire district. Sometimes, we get complaints about fake beneficiaries. Now, we plan to send their signatures to the bank staff too to avoid duplicity. This is an attempt to bring the poor people into the mainstream.”

With the success of this campaign, the officials say, only real beneficiaries will benefit from the government schemes apart from minimising the possibility of irregularities in panchayat funds. The administration has also planned to digitalise the signatures of the beneficiaries.

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Over the past two years, the MGNREGS has played a crucial role in alleviating the economic hardship stemming from the pandemic. In 2020, the authorities had observed that the number of families which got employment under MGNREGS during the lockdown had increased almost three-fold in Haryana in three months compared to the corresponding period of 2019. As many as 3.39 lakh labourer families got employment in different projects like the construction of water ponds or ground levelling in April, May and June in 2020 while this number was 1.15 lakh for the same period in 2019. In the ongoing financial year, 9.52 crore individuals have so far benefited from it in the country.

However, a social audit unit (SAU) of the Rural Development Department of Jharkhand had documented several instances of irregularities too. In many cases, the audit found that workers were listed on the records but were missing from work sites. Instances where beneficiaries have struck deals with contractors allowing them to use their names on muster rolls in exchange for a cut, or of contractors employing contract labour instead of local work-seekers, have also come to light.

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