Akhil Bharatiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan

Job cards not enough to stop exodus from Bundelkhand

Manikpur block, Chitrakoot District, UP, 13 August

In the tribal Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh bordering Madhya Pradesh, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme has failed to stop starving people from fleeing the place in the absence of work. This is despite Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's recent plea to the Centre for a Vidarbha-type package for drought-hit Bundelkhand.

An entire village of Kol tribals are preparing for exodus. The people of village Karauha are waiting to board rickety vans and tractors which will take them to the neighbouring Banda district, 100 km away, for construction work. Most of them are women and children.

Dhanmaniya, who is in class I, is following her mother Maya to Banda. She is wearing her school uniform but there will be no classes for her from now.

Job cards?

"The village sarpanch is expected to get the job cards today. But we just cannot wait. We have food only for tonight. It may take weeks before we get any money. Children might die of hunger," says Bhola who is leaving with the rest, leaving his wife and two children behind. There are 150 houses in the village and 75 are already empty, adds Bhola.

Chitrakoot district has about 80,000 Kol tribals who live in acute poverty, unconnected by transport facilities, with no doctors in health centres and with no anganwadis to provide nutrition for their children. They eke out a living from the sale of fuelwood of bidi leaves. While Kols in other states have been declared Scheduled Tribes, the local struggle to get them included in the Fifth Schedule continues unaided by the state government.

In Tikariya village of Manikpur block also, no one has got job cards through 185 people had applied. The men have already migrated. Sarpanch Shyamkali and her husband Durga say the block office has registered just 55 but is yet to hand over the cards to the villagers. So we cannot even apply for unemployment allowance, says Durga.

The panchayat secretary, with whom the sarpanch shares an account for payments under the NREGP and whose seal is essential on job cards, has been missing for three months, while the junior engineer has been demanding Rs 5,000 as one per cent commission for sanctioning the proposed project, says Durga.

In Jagannathpuram village in Itwa panchayat of Manikpur block, there are hardly any inhabitants. Just some women and a couple of old men are there.

Says 70-year-old Kalbal: "My sons and nephews, 25 of them, have gone to Surat and Rewa for work. We filled out 52 forms and gave it at the block office. But there is no information yet." Gaya Prasad Gopal, the founder of Akhil Bhartiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan that has been working to empower Kol tribals for the past few decades, says: "Here every entitlement whether it is ICDS, PDS or NREGA is another right denied. Every scheme is like an excuse to loot more."

Sreelatha Menon, Business Standard, August 14, 2006

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