The state consultation on Energizing MGNREGA in Odisha was organized at IDCOL Auditorium, Bhubaneswar on 8th November, 2012. The purpose of the consultation was to bring together civil society, state and central governments to discuss the performance, potential and challenges in the implementation of MGNREGA in Odisha and chart out a possible course of action for the future. One of the aims of the consultation was also to review some of the recent initiatives taken by the state government in creating a platform for civil society and state partnership. Dr. Mihir Shah, Member Planning Commission, Government of India, chaired the meeting. Ms. Chitra Arumugam, Director, Special Projects and Commissioner, MGNREGA, GoO represented GoO.
In his inaugural address, Dr. Mihir Shah emphasised the importance of MGNREGA for a state like Odisha. He said that MGNREGA can be successful in Odisha because it has a unique combination of factors which can make success possible. The Chief Minister is highly committed to MGNREGA and the state also has a strong civil society presence. He urged everyone to work in the spirit of partnership so as to ensure quality of work. He said that this partnership already exists between civil society and the government in Odisha but it needs to be taken forward. Dr. Shah assured the gathering of his full cooperation in terms of interventions with the Central government in case of any problems. While talking about the kind of role the civil society needs to play he said that the consortium has been careful not to become a parallel structure to the government. He dwelt on the issue of strengthening of Gram Panchayats. He said that for blocks with up to Rs.12 crores of expenditure or blocks with more than 30 percent SC/ST population, a Cluster Facilitation Team is to be developed by dividing each block into 3 clusters. For each block a team of professionals should be provided by the state government for which the expense will be borne by the Centre. He expressed concern over the problems related to the banking network and said that there was a need to find a solution. He suggested that the state government should talk about the steps taken by it to operationalize the new MGNREGA guidelines, strengthening the role of GPs and capacity building strategy in Odisha.
Ms Chitra Arumugam then briefed the gathering on the developments related to MGNREGA in the state. She said that selected districts were taken in the first 2 phases of implementation of MGNREGA in the state but at present all districts have been covered. Financial allocations for the current year are Rs.1193 crores but the expenditure has only been 605 crores because 3 months were occupied with elections. The target this year is to generate 612 lakh person-days of work which is an expandable target. So far, 279 lakh person-days of work have already been generated despite 3 months of rain. The rural population is 3.42 crores which comes to about 61-62 lakh households. Job cards have been issued to 61.98 lakh house-holds. Average days of employment provided in the current year is 22. Women’s participation is 38% of this. The works taken up last year are water conservation, water bodies, Rajiv Gandhi Sewa Kendras, irrigation facilities, micro-irrigation, land development, flood control and drought proofing. The works initiated this year are labour intensive. The priority this year is for land development of FRA beneficiaries with a saturation approach; water harvesting, water conservation, watershed, plantation, check dams. Agriculture transformation is to be given priority this year after completing rural connectivity which was the focus last year. We are expecting an impact especially in GPs with potential where we will ensure that works are taken up. This does not exclude other GPs as shelf of projects are available for all GPs.
Sankalp, an independent body has made a documentary on Gram Sabhas which were held. Online MIS is available for transparency. Initiation meeting is conducted in the beginning of any project. E-musters has been made mandatory from 2011. She said that they have gone one step ahead in payment of wages. The EFMS (Electronic Fund Management System) is in place. They have also appointed human resources as per MoRD guidelines. At the district level there is MGNREGS coordinator. At the state level there is an MGNREGS Odisha Society which is a registered society. For grievance redress, the mechanism which has been put into place includes:
- Rules have been notified and published
- District programme coordinator is the grievance redressal officer at the district level,
- Programme officer is the grievance redressal officer at the block level.
- Grievance Redressal Committee has been set up in each district under the chairmanship of DPC-cum-Collector with a judicial member from District Legal Services Authority to review the status of grievance redressal under MGNREGA.
- 24 ombudsmen have been appointed.
- A toll free helpline number has been launched.
- follow up is an important part of grievance redressal.