i just concluded a 2 day meeting with village health workers of villages within the achanakmaar sanctuary. again, the issue of the NREGA comes up. the health workers are angry, and give three written complaints: some who did not receive any wages at all for work done in 2008 and 2009; some who received part-wages, but for whom rs. 50 was deducted on some pretext or the other. others write that they were asked to pay rs. 50 for the photograph for the job card and those who could not pay did not get the job card: some got the card, but no payments are made without a photoID, so have not got wages.
we have worked hard, and we needed the money, they said, and we did not get it in time. now the rains are delayed, and the fields have dried up. with debts mounting, our menfolk have started migrating. to bilaspur, to bhopal, do delhi.
phulsita's husband and son-in-law have migrated to faridabad where they work in a glass factory. on monday her son-in-law called her say he had got a piece of glass in one eye and could not open it and hence had not gone to work. doctors are expensive, he told her over the phone when she urged him to seek care.
how did your son-in-law, a forest dweller who has only ever done some agricultural work, end up in a glass factory, i asked. well, she replied, beggars cant be choosers.
so now she waits for news of her son-in-law's eye: has he sought care? could someone take the piece of glass out? will he be able to see normally?
who is responsible for this? his own carelessness or the doctor who charges an unaffordable fees? the employer who does not provide safety precautions to the worker? the failed monsoon? or the NREGA that did not pay wages when it should have: a weekly payment that would have helped to prevent unmanageable debt and perhaps prevented this migration?