Aila victims still in search of a livelihood

KOLKATA, 12 JUNE: A hasty move by the district administration of North 24-Parganas has deprived Aila-hit people in the Sunderbans of an opportunity to earn money for two months through a scheme ~ cash for work (CFW) ~ initiated by some NGOs in the area.
Even after the Pradhan of Kalitala gram panchayat, Mr Debesh Mondol, and the nodal officer of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) cell in North 24-Parganas, Mr Joly Chowdhury, admitted that many labourers have their wages pending for six to eight months, district magistrate, Mr Vinod Kumar, said that there has been no irregularities in the payment of wages. He told the NGOs ~ Save The Children, ADRA, ACTED and Concern Worldwide ~ supported by the European Commission and Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), to focus on other areas to avoid duplication of NREGA.
After almost two months, he called another meeting to clarify his suggestion and told the NGOs to continue with the scheme.
The DM said that there has been no irregularity in NREGA but people in the Aila-hit villages are still wating for their wages in many areas of Hingalgunj Block, Gosaba Block and Sandeshkhali-I and II. A labourer in Shamshernagar, Dulai Mondol, said: “In this condition, I have no other way left. I am thinking of going to the city to look for work.”
Mr Joly Chowdhury, said that there have been delay in paying the labourers on time because the post office and the bank takes a lot of time to release the draft.
When contacted, the DM, Mr Kumar said, after he had told the NGOs to stop the scheme: “It was just a suggestion not an order.” Soon he called for a meeting to clarify this to the NGOs.
However, Ms Poonam Mishra, programme officer of ADRA-India, said: “The DM had clearly told us not to go ahead with this scheme. And after two months he says that it was just a suggestion? Our project was an 11-month emergency programme and we have already lost two months.”

Soma Basu

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