रविवार, 15 नवंबर 2015

Disastrous situation of Functioning of Ombudsman in Odisha

Disastrous situation of office of 
Ombudsman functioning under MGNREGA in Odisha and Physical harassment and mental torture of an Ombudsman by inept bureaucracy in Ganjam district

On 23.3.15, Sri Sadanand Rao, retired OAS officer who has been appointed as Ombudsman in Ganjam district  by the Govt. of Odisha on 28.11.13 to conduct enquiries  into complaints  and grievances  of the daily wage workers under MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) filed a complaint to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi stating that after his appointment as Ombudsman, no facility of accommodation  in the DRDA office, vehicle, complaint Box,  administrative support staff  had been given to him.  The Ganjam DRDA Authority had not disbursed the legitimate sitting fees / remuneration of Ombudsman. He has been harassed physically and tortured mentally by the officials of DRDA, Ganjam. He has sought intervention of NHRC to dispense justice to him. Acting on his complaint, NHRC issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Odisha on dated 8.4.2015   seeking response on the Complaint filed by Sri Rao (Case No. 2210/18/5/2015).

It deserves to be mentioned here that Sri Rao has also written a letter in April 2014 to the Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India complaining about denial of sitting fee/ remuneration to him and non-supply of administrative support staff to function independently. The MORD wrote letter twice i.e, dated 7.5.14 and 19.6.14 (D.O. No. L- 11033/10/2010-MGNREGA-VII) to the Secretary, Department of Panchayat Raj, Govt. of Odisha seeking action taken Report  stating  that “Non-payment of sitting fees  to an Ombudsman is a serious matter and may severely impact  the Grievance Redressal  Mechanism under MGNREGs”. But astonishingly, the State Govt. did not respond the letter nor did provide any action Taken Report.

Abysmally failed to get justice, Sri Rao, Ombudsman approached NHRC seeking Justice. The NHRC is yet to get ATR from the State Govt. and continue to fix so many dates for hearing and disposal of the cases.  Now,  on capacity  as Advisor to NHRC, I have sent a letter dated 12.11.15 to NHRC  seeking immediate disposal of the  said  case and provide justice to Sri Rao who is fighting for justice  since his  joining  as Ombudsman  from Nov. 13. It shows that how  the District Administration of Ganjam is creating all sorts of problem and harassing him a lot and pressuring him tol leave the post.

What is Ombudsman?
Ombudsman is an Institution formed  under section 27  of MGNREGA  consisting of one or  up to  three persons  functions  as an independent  grievance  redressal body  at district level  to hear the complaints relating to implementation of NREG Act and schemes made under the Act, direct the appropriate authority for redressal, disciplinary and punitive action against erring officials  involved in corruption  ad irregularities in NREGS work and dispense justice to NREGS worker. The Tenure of Ombudsman is  two years and may be extendable upto  one year by the selection Committee headed by Chief Secretary keeping in view the performance of the Ombudsman. The sitting fee   of Ombudsman is  fixed as Rs. 1000.00  per day.

The Process of appointment of Ombudsman started in Feb 2010  after  the order of the Central Govt dated 7.9.2009. Following the guideline issued by the Central Govt.,   the State Govt.   ensured appointment of Ombudsman  in almost all districts  in 2010 -11.

Present situation of Ombudsman in the Districts

On 9.2.15, RTI Application was submitted to the PIO, Department of Panchayat Raj, Govt. of Odisha seeking information about details of status of Ombudsman in Odisha.  RTI Application was forwarded to all the districts to provide the information. In the meanwhile, only 10 districts have provided the information.  These districts are Baragarh, Bolangir, Rayagada, Dhenkanal, Kondhamal, Malkangiri, Kalahandi,  Jajpur, Khorda,  Puri.

Details of Response of the PIOs of DRDAs of the different districts  is  as follows-

1.   The post of Ombudsman is lying vacant in all the districts since 2013.
2. The Collector, Baragarh has sent a letter to the Dept. of Panchayat Raj recommending 3 names since August, 2014. But no step has been taken by the Govt. to appoint Ombudsman.
3.  On 30.6.14, the District Collector of Bolangir had recommended three names to the State Govt. for appointment in the post of Ombudsman. But no appointment has been made so far.
4. On 15.7.14, District Collector, Rayagada had recommended two names for appointment of Ombudsman to the Govt. But no appointment has been made in the district.
5.  On 16.8.13, the Collector of Dhenkanal district had sent the name of three persons recommending for appointment in the post of Ombudsman. But the post of the Ombudsman is lying vacant in the district.
6.  No appointment has been made in the post of Ombudsman, Kondhamal.
7.  The post of Ombudsman In Malkangiri  is still vacant  since  29.9.2013.
8.  Since 2014, there is no appointment in the post of Ombudsman in Kalahandi district.
9.  The post of Ombudsman in Jajpur district and Puri district is lying vacant since 2013.
10.On 28.6.14, the Project Director, DRDA, Khorda has sent only one name Bhabagrahi Mohapatra to the State Govt. for appointment in the post of Ombudsman. But till yet no appointment has been made.
11.There is no Ombudsman in Puri district.

Critical Comments
A. The system of Ombudsman is defunct across the state. The Grievances with regard to implementation of NREGA is neither addressed nor  are the NREGA workers  provided their wage payments  within stipulated time period.
B. In the absence of effective grievance redressal mechanism, the huge corruption, irregularities, denial of wages to the workers are noticed throughout the state.
C. Wherever, Ombudsman has been appointed, they are not provided accommodation, office, supporting staff by the administration.  They are also seen being denied their remuneration. The plight of   Ombudsman of Ganjam as mentioned above   is the classic example.
D. This is the conspiracy of the BJD Govt.  to  destroy all forms of  independent  grievance redressal mechanism  in the state  and to let  the corruption  go on.
E. The system of Ombudsman needs  to be restored  at any cost bestowing all the powers  to this Institutions  to function  independently  to provide justice  to  the MGREGA Workers in the State.     

Pradip Pradhan, State Convener
Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan

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