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UPDATE (India): A call for further legal process against the corrupt government official and compensation for the victims

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to inform you that action has been taken to bring some relief to workers whose wages were misappropriated (for the details, please see the previous case). However, 14 out of the 16 have been partially reimbursed, and two are waiting for any reimbursement. No prosecution has taken place against the corrupt official who is currently on suspension.

Hunger Alert Update: AHRC-HAU-002-2010



22 March 2010

[RE: AHRC-HAC-005-2010: INDIA: A corrupt supervisor misappropriated the wages of 16 illiterate workers depriving them of their food security]
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INDIA: A call for further legal process against the corrupt government official and compensation for the victims

ISSUES: Corruption; impunity; right to food
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to inform you that action has been taken to bring some relief to workers whose wages were misappropriated (for the details, please see the previous case). However, 14 out of the 16 have been partially reimbursed, and two are waiting for any reimbursement. No prosecution has taken place against the corrupt official who is currently on suspension.

UPDATED INFORMATION:

On March 8, 2010 the AHRC reported that Mr. Debiprasad Jena, the Junior Assistant of Soil conservation officer of Machhkund misappropriated the wages of 16 tribal workers. The workers were employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) aiming to ensure food security of the poor in rural areas.

After the victims' complained to the different government authorities, and civil society exerted some pressure Mr. Jena visited the village. Early on the morning of March 10 between 6:30 to 8:30am he distributed INR 36,850 (USD 810) out of the INR 49,260 (USD 1083) owed. A balance of IRN 12,650 (USD 278) is outstanding, while two workers are still waiting for relief (see the below table for details).



Moreover, Mr. Jena who is suspended has still not been prosecuted according to the domestic laws such as Section 13 (c); d (i), (ii) and (iii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant), the Indian Penal Code, 1891. This kind of impunity remains the widespread privilege of corrupt officials, and commonly leads to failure in ensuring the food security of the poor.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

In March 2010, the central government acknowledged the need to tackle rampant corruption that has been hampering the functioning of the NREGA (Act) in a letter from the Ministry of Rural Development to all state governments, which asked them to initiate criminal proceedings against state officials found ‘guilty of embezzlement’ of NREGA funds, under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. The letter also requests that states ensure that the whole ‘embezzled amount’ is recovered from the corrupt official.

It mentioned that the central government had received 450 individual or collective complaints regarding the implementation of the NREGA and transferred them to the states, requiring more information. In most cases however the complaints were dismissed as groundless and no further action has been taken.

According to the NREGA rules and guidelines, if the payment of the due wages is delayed for more than 15 days the labourers are entitled to compensation. This was also reminded in the central minister’s letter.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please join us in expressing your concern regarding the misuse of public programmes aiming at guaranteeing the right to work and the right to food of the poorest in India. The AHRC has also written a separate letter calling for the intervention of the Chief Justice of India and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

To support this appeal please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

INDIA: A Call for further legal process upon corrupt government official and compensation for the victims

Names of victims: (Job card number, Account number, days the victim worked, payment withdrawn, amount to be reimbursed as of 10.03.2010)
1. Subarna Majhi& Krushna Najhi: 3559, 1820235, 36 days, INR 3,240, INR 240.00
2. Boidi Golori & Gangadhar Golori: 3560, 1820252, 38 days, INR 3,420, INR 130.00
3. Mukta Dora & Mangala Dora: 3564, 1820241, 38 days, INR 3,420, INR 3,420.00
4. Sabitri Dora & Mangaraj Dora: 3553, 1820245, 38 days, INR 3,420, INR 80.00
5. Parbati Dora & Ghasiram Dora: 3551, 1820254, 36 days, INR 3,240, INR 140.00
6. Rama Dora& Padlam Dora: 3565, 1820258, 36 days, INR 3,240, INR 340.00
7. Gouri Khara & Ramamurty Khara: 3567, 1820248, 36 days, INR 3,240, INR 1,240.00
8. Narahari Dora & Kesaba Dora: 3554, 1820262, 36 days, INR 3,240, INR 240.00
9. Raila Dora & Guru Dora: 3556, 1820243, 31 days, INR 2,790, INR 2,590.00
10. Boidei Dora & Gupta Dora: 3577, 1820244, 25 days, INR 2,250, INR 2,250.00
11. Kumari Machha & Adu Machha: 3555, 1820253, 43 days, INR 3,870, INR 690.00
12. Manima Majhi & Gangadhar Majhi: 3566, 1820255, 36 days, INR 3,240, INR 140.00
13. Debaki Majhi & Laxman Majhi: 3558, 1820236, 38 days, INR 3,420, INR 120.00
14. Pratima Dora & Phalahd Dora: 3569, 1820249, 36 days, INR 3,240, INR 360.00
15. Parbati Dora & Manika Dora: 3557, 1820238, 36 days, INR 3,240, INR 40.00
16. Sanai Khara & Guru Khara: 3563, 1820251, 11 days, INR 980, INR 790.00

Name of Alleged Perpetrator: Mr. Debiprasad Jena, Junior Assistant of the Soil Conservation Department (Machhkund)
Name of village: Kharsapada Village (GP Chikenput), Lamtaput block, Koraput District, Orissa

I am writing to ask for further progress in the corruption case that deprived 16 tribal workers of their wages in Orissa.

On February 28, 2010 those 16 landless tribal labourers realized that Mr. Debiprasad Jena, supervisor in charge of the project had taking advantage of their illiteracy to deceive them into giving him access to their bank accounts; he had deposited their wages earned under the NREGA on December 19, 2009 and withdrawn the total amount of the same day. Once the villagers became aware of this they tried to find a legal remedy to the situation by complaining to the Block District Officer of Lamtaput and the District Magistrate Sri. Rajesh Patil. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) who is concerned about right to food of the poor in India has reported the case.

I am further informed that on March 5 the Project Director of the District Rural Development Agency of Koraput, a division of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Smt. Rupa Rosan Sahu went to the village to meet with the workers.

I have learned that Mr. Jena eventually visited the village on March 10 and gave back a total of INR 36,850 out of the INR 49,260. Two villagers out of 16 have not received any relief yet. I am surprised to know that the corrupt public servant who allegedly committed a crime is still not under the prosecution and rather directly paid back the worker’s wages. He is currently on suspension.

I am aware that recently the Rural Development Ministry has asked all the state governments to initiate criminal proceedings against state officials found ‘guilty of embezzlement’ of NREGA funds, under the Indian Penal Code 1973 and Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. I am aware that under the NREGA rules and guidelines, the workers are entitled to a fair compensation for the delay in their wage payment.

According to the section 13 of this act, Mr Jena has committed a criminal offence by dishonestly misappropriating a property entrusted to him or under his control as a public servant and ‘shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than one year but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine’.

The NREGA has been praised by the UNDP as a big step toward poverty alleviation and countries such as South Africa are considering the adoption of a similar scheme. Before holding the NREGA as a success against unemployment and hunger, the rampant corruption hampering its functioning must be tackled. This should start with the accountability of all the public servants found guilty of having committed the offence of corruption, beginning with Mr. Jena.

I therefore urge you to take immediate investigation in the case and further punish the corrupt official in accordance with appropriate legal process. The payment and compensation for those workers should be also immediately and completely provided.

I look forward to your prompt and positive response.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Naveen Patnaik
Chief Minister
Naveen Nivas, Aerodrome Road
P.O.Bhubaneswar, Dist. Khurda
751001 Orissa
INDIA
E-mail: cmo@ori.nic.in

2. Upendra Prasad Singh
Commissioner-cum Secretary
Department of Agriculture
Orissa, INDIA
Fax: +91 674 2393 948
E-mail: agrsec@ori.nic.in

3. Mr. Bikram Keshari Arukh
Minister
Ministry of Rural Development
Bhubaneswar, Orissa
INDIA
Fax: +91 674 2536 641
E-mail: rdsec@ori.nic.in

4. Ms. Amita Sharma
Joint Secretary (NREGA)
Rural Development Department
New Delhi, INDIA
Fax: +91 11 2338 4703
E-mail: amita712@yahoo.co.uk

5. Rajesh Pravakar Patil
Collector of Koraput district
Collectorate
Koraput PO
Koraput, Orissa 764020
INDIA
Fax: +91 6852 250466
E-mail: dm-koraput@nic.in

6. Justice Shri Govind Prasad Mathur
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2338 4863
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

7. Maurice Kujur
Vice-Chairperson
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes
6th Floor, ‘B’ Wing, Loknayak Bhawan,
Khan Market, New Delhi – 110003
INDIA
Tel: +91 11 2456 7474

Thank you.

Right to Food Programme (foodjustice@ahrc.asia)
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Posted on 2010-03-21
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