On the 28th of January, 2012, people of Barkheda and Jhamdi gram panchayat came in record numbers for the ‘Jan Nigrani evam Shikayat Nivaraan Shivir’ organized by Soochna and Rozgaar Abhayan and Prayatna Sanstha, Bharatpur. Also present were key financial advisors and policy makers from different ministries, as part of a policy and service delivery workshop organized by the Institute of Economic Growth. The social audit and grievance camp focused on four schemes – Janani Suraksha Yojna, the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojna, the Indira Aawas Yojna and the MGNREGA.
Under the Janani Suraksha Yojna, shocking cases of discrepancy came forth; out of the 256 women who were listed in government health department records as having been given Rs 1900 maternity benefit, over fifty women came forth to say that they had not received any such sum. Records showed the issuance on a cheque on the 22nd of a month, while a woman testified that her delivery took place only on the 29th of the same month and did not receive this benefit.
While the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojna guarantees BPL households a free electricity connection and CFL bulb, several people came with CFL bulbs that had been distributed to them just the night before despite not having had mandated electricity connections for years. Raising laughter from the crowd and officials, a man brought an electricity meter in his hands. Inspite of having an unconnected meter and no electricity, he had been receiving a regular bill from the electricity department.
In a resounding discrediting of the SDM’s statement that the low spending on MNREGA in Bharatpur District (15 lakhs out of the 1 crore budget) is due to lack of demand, over 400 people registered for work under the MNREGA. When Nikhil Dey, member of both State and Central Employment Guarantee Council, asked the gathering how many of them wanted work under the MNREGA, a forest of hands went up.
A combination of a public hearing and a grievance camp provided an opportunity for people to express their grievances, to be heard by government officials and to get redress. Mr. Gaurav Goyal, District Collector Bharatpur announced immediate action. He promised that the SDM, BDO, AEN and other officials present would resolve the highlighted issues within two weeks. The following day, he issued notices to several officials and ordered a continuation of the camp, on a Sunday, to file grievances and issue dated receipts. The impact of this hearing and camp held in just one panchayat was felt across the district.