The Government of India launched the world's largest flagship scheme in 2006; Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) with an aim to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work ,who are unable to earn their livelihood.
In compliance to the directions of the central government; the scheme was implemented in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2009 and as per the guidelines of the Act, Supporting Staff consisting of Gram Rozgar Sahayak, Technical Assistant, Programme Officer, MIS Operator, Social Auditors; was recruited by the government through proper recruitment procedure, for the smooth functioning of the scheme on a meagre honorarium.
The recruited supporting staff being highly qualified, dedicated their all professional skills and left no stone unturned to make the scheme successful on the ground level.
Since their engagement in the department, they have been working honestly without any holiday and despite various hardships made Jammu and Kashmir number one in the entire country.
The successful achievement of the given targets under the scheme before the stipulated time, is the outcome of the hard work of this dedicated supporting staff.
It is pertinent to mention here that in the initial stage of the scheme, when MGNREGA Supporting Staff was not recruited, the department of Rural Development used to spent mere a handful of allotment in J&K and failed to achieve even half of the targets.
It was only when supporting staff was recruited, the department not only have been achievingdesired targets well before time and have created thousands of durable assets in the far off place, but the UT has received many prestigious awards from the government of India for greater achievements and transparency.
The department of Rural Development should realise the magnitude of hard work of MGNREGA Supporting Staff and it was possible only because of their hard work and dedication that hundreds of remote villages have been linked together by constructing inter and intra village roads and other assets. The MGNREGA Supporting Staff has dedicated their precious years of life to the government of Jammu and Kashmir.
The government should make an absorption policy in their favour in the department of rural development department against available vacant posts.
Initially, this supporting staff was given charge of only MGNREGA, but with the passage of time when department became aware of their high calibre and talent, were also assigned the charge of other centrally & State sponsored schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission, PradanMantriAwas Yojna, CDF,CD-Pyt, CDS, 14th FC,15th FC,etc. for better results. Their services are currently being utilisedby the department in other important assignments like Back to Village, Election COVID Mass mobilisation, etc.
In 2016, government of India took an initiative to Geo-tagg all the assets of the MGNREGA created till date, through an application software; Bhuvan, in order to bring greater transparency and accountability in the scheme. The supporting staff especially the meagre paid employees Gram Rozgar Sahayaks(GRS), utilized their all skills and geotagged tens of thousands of assets in just three months, despite of the turmoil, curfews & internet blockage. And It was just by their praise worthy efforts that department of Rural Development was given an award by GoI for better performance.
Today, when almost a decade passed since their appointment; the department of Rural Development didn't formulate any job policy till date in order to secure their future. The supporting staff, who dedicated their cream of life in the accomplishment of different types of assignments in the department; find their future in darkness. No doubt, authorities from time to time gave assurances and constituted committee's for their absorption but nothing good happened till date.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir in general and Hon'ble LG in particular must formulate a job policy and consider their absorption in the department of rural development immediately in order to secure their future and livelihood. In this age of inflation, when permanent employees are drawing their salaries as per 7thPay Commission, Gram Rozgar Sahayaks (GRS) under MGNREGA are being paid mere sixty eight hundred rupees that too not released on time. Their meagre honorarium has made their lives more challenging and difficult for survival, as with Rs 6800 they can't even make both ends meet, how can they mannage other family expenses. The absorption and regularisation of highly qualified MGNREGA Supporting Staff would be a great step towards rehabilitation of educated youth and their engagement towards mainstream.
-Shabir Ahmad can be reached at email@example.com