Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Though many people in Odisha are forced to move outside the State to work as migrant labourers, massive irregularities under MGNREGA scheme have allegedly surfaced in some villages of Muribahal block in Odisha's Bolangir district. 

As per reports, huge funds released under the scheme have allegedly been siphoned off. Even works under the scheme have allegedly not often been executed on the ground, and merely shown on the papers.

Though the government is providing 200 days of work under MGNREGA per year, many labourers including a divyang in the block have not received their wages despite working under the scheme. Even funds under the scheme have been allegedly siphoned off by the block authorities and employees in the name of the gram sathi and ghost labourers.

Take the case of divyang labourer Bidyadhar Sahu from Kandhenjhula village. Bidyadhar can neither speak nor hear properly. Though under compulsion he worked under MGNREGA scheme to make his living, he is yet to get a single penny for his work. However, as per the allegations by his family members, it has been falsely mentioned in the documents that Bidyadhar, his father Kasta Sahu and three others have received wages of Rs 1,50,000 in three phases.

However, as per the allegation by Bidyadhar’s family members, gram sathi Mamata Behera and her husband Laba Behera went to their home and took their fingerprints with the assurance of depositing the money in their account. But the amount is yet to be deposited.

Following the development, Bidyadhar’s family members lodged a complaint at Muribahal police station in this regard. However, no steps were allegedly taken by the police following which they had to lodge their complaint before the SP. 

“Gram sathi Mamata Behera and her husband Laba Behera siphoned off Rs 1.5 lakh under MGNREGA scheme by taking our fingerprints. We requested them a lot to return our money, but they didn’t pay any heed to our plea,” said Bidyadhar’s mother, Meena Sahu.

Meanwhile, the employees of Jana Seva Kendra in the village admitted that money has been withdrawn without taking the signature of the beneficiaries. “Earlier money has been withdrawn under MGNREGA scheme without taking signatures from the beneficiaries. Now, we have become careful after the row,” said Phakir Behera, an employee of Jana Seva Kendra in the village.

Even allegations have been made that money has been siphoned off under the scheme in the name of a divyang person who can’t walk properly. Money has been allegedly withdrawn in the name of Sukru Chhura by mentioning that the divyang person has worked in the village pond project under MGNREGA. 

“I was not doing any work under MGNREGA as I am unable to work. My wife was working under the scheme,” said Sukru Chhura.

 Though as per the rule, gram sathis are given the responsibility only to execute the work and they can’t work as labourer under the scheme, gram sathi Mamata’s name has been mentioned as a labourer in the MGNREGA portal.

However, Mamata brushed aside the allegations against her. “The allegations about irregularities under the scheme in the village are false and baseless. Some persons are alleging that I have siphoned off their money. However, they have actually received their amount,” said Mamata.

Meanwhile, responding to the allegations, Kantabanjhi SDPO Gourang Charan Sahu said that they are aware of the complaints and steps are being taken in this regard. “Proper action will be taken after an investigation into the incident,” said Sahu.