In Sehore, a district which has been blazing the trail for effective implementation of Panchayati Raj in the state, Sarpanches and Secretaries demonstrated disinclination towards Social Audit on MGNREGA in the 15th August Gram Sabha. Despite this reluctance, wherever Social Audits were conducted, a number of problems being faced by the laborers were highlighted and several corruption cases came to light. While in Jahangirpura, the Sarpanch and the Secretary fled from the Gram Sabha, in Khandwa Panchayat the Secretary refused to record the proceedings related to MGNREGS. In Raipur Nayakheda, the Panchayat Office remained closed.
Gram Sabha is used as an opportunity to discuss various programmes of rural development including the Social Audit of the implementation of the MGNREGA. A number of NGOs reviewed the process of Social Audit during the 15th August Gram Sabha – mandatorily conducted as per the the Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act. Samarthan ran a campaign for facilitating the Social Audit process in 10 districts of the state viz. Sehore, Dhar, Badwani, Jhabua, Panna, Satna, Rewa, Jabalpur, Seoni and Damoh. Under the campaign, one master trainers for every three Panchayats and two youth facilitator for every Panchayat were trained in the process of Social Audit. The youth facilitators were provided with MGNREGA-related data for their respective Panchayats. Based on this data, the youth facilitators had carried out discussions with villagers for coming up with issues for Social Audit. Samarthan reviewed the Gram Sabhas both in villagers with facilitators and in villages without facilitators. It was seen that in villages without facilitators the social audit process did not take place at all. On the other hand, in villages where facilitators were present, the social audit process did take place but the Sarpanches and Secretaries kept evading the process. Despite this, because of the intervention of the facilitators, social audit brought to light many administrative irregularities and the problems being faced by laborers.
Samarthan’s staff was deployed all across the district on 15th August in order to observe the Gram Sabha process. In Thunakala Gram Panchayat, Social Audit on MGNREGS issues was not carried out. The number of women attending the Gram Sabha was quite high but most of them raised the issues of Indira Awas Yojna and Social Security pensions. In Raipur Nayakheda Panchayat, Gram Sabha didn’t take place at all and the Panchayat office remained locked. At 10 a.m. itself, the attendance register showed 11.30 a.m. as the time of arrival of participants and their signatures. In Jahangirpura, the Gram Sabha began quite late. However soon the quorum was complete and a Social Audit was conducted; instead of participating the Social Audit, the Sarpanch and the Secretary fled from the scene, fearing a no-confidence motion. In Khandwa Panchayat, the Sarpanch and the Secretary agreed to participate in the Social Audit but, in order to avoid any action against them, failed to make an official record of the irregularities that were pointed out by the villagers.