Tribal district Jhabua has a special place in Madhya Pradesh because of its geographical location and cultural identity. In the changing times, the tribals are trying to get benefit of government schemes with little success. As a result migration from the district to distant places had been norm.
When National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, guaranteeing 100 days work to every interested villager, was launched it was expected that rural families will get an opportunity to become financially strong, village resources will be created and migration will decrease. It was also expected that with the increase in families’ income, critical issues like children’s education and health will be taken care of in a better way.
With these expectations, 501 residents of Kachrakhadan village worked for 18 days on a road being constructed under employment guarantee scheme from Kachrakhadan Ninama Phaliye to Damar Phaliye. Even after passage of three months the villagers were not paid their wages.
The villagers were confused. They were not able to understand why they were not paid their wages when the Government asked everyone to apply for wage work, do work and get money and there was no shortage of money. Most of the labours were below poverty line, very poor and lived on daily wages for their livelihood. But historically, whatever and whenever they got was always partial and they were unable to decide whom to blame – carelessness of those running schemes or their bad luck.
Several women of the village are associated with self help groups. In their weekly meetings, they always discussed employment and their wages. Women were questioning the sarpanch and panchayat secretary for a couple of months when they would get their wages. But they never got any firm answer – sometimes they were told engineer was on leave and sometimes some other official was on leave. As a result their wages were delayed.
When village women started breaking financially and probability of getting work during the rains started decreasing, their last ray of hope was the pending wage, which they could have spent on agricultural operations and children’s healthcare. Women members of SHGs and men organised a full village meeting and discussed payment of wages.
The next day several women and men from the village met a local journalist and requested him to get news about their problem published in the newspaper. When the next morning news was published the panchayat secretary was furious over the villagers. On this the villagers said there was nothing personal against him and his higher ups must know the facts so their wages were paid without further delay.
One more day passed and a delegation visited the higher officer. But the officer was not present in his office. When the villagers returned to the village, the secretary asked them not to go to higher ups and that he would make payment within a day or two. The villagers took this with a pinch of salt. They declared their decision to go to the higher ups if wages were not paid and also that they would not celebrate Rakshabandhan festival. But the third day they were astonished to see that their wages were being paid.
Collective decision of the villagers was right. They learnt if the Government makes law for the deprived, they themselves were responsible for its proper implementation.