Life for 28-year-old Hasut Sabar, with a monthly salary of Rs.4,000, has been a daily struggle and a decent house a distant dream for him. But for the tribal youth from the Gandabaheli village of Odisha’s Nuapada district has executed government construction contracts worth over Rs.1 crore in the past couple of years.
Hasut, who considers the ration card under the National Food Security Act as his most-valued possession, is a ‘B’ Class contractor.
In neighbouring block, Komna, Duryodhan Majhi of Dabri village spends most of his time in a thatched house near an agricultural field protecting farm produce at remuneration less than Rs.3,000 per month. But Majhi is a leading contractor in the government records who has completed construction worth more than Rs.8 crore in the past few years.
Hasut and Majhi are not the ‘rare’ government record-rich contractors in this poverty-stricken region. When three check dams constructed at an estimated cost of Rs.17 lakh were washed away in Sinapali block in 2014, investigation revealed the contract was executed by Manjulata Sagaria, a Dalit woman.
There have been numerous examples of persons belonging to BPL tribes being used as dummies in ‘lucrative’ government construction contracts.
Rich and influential appear to be grabbing contracts in the name of poor people to evade legal actions in the event of poor and inferior execution of constructions. Besides, contractors from the tribal community, according to an official, are usually given 50 per cent concession on initial deposits such as EMD (Earnest Money Deposit). In case of additional Performance Security Deposit, the tribals get 50 per cent concession.
However, the clear benefit of executing construction projects in the name of poor people is to escape legal action.
Hasut has two bank accounts – one with the State Bank of India and another in a regional bank. His handler – Bikash Ranjan Meher, a rich person in his village — operates his SBI account.
“Huge money has been deposited in my account by Meher. When he requires money to be withdrawn from SBI, I am taken to bank and asked to put my signature. Similarly, he renews my license as ‘B’ Class contractor on my behalf. Although I am an official contractor for different government projects, I know nothing about project, my job is to drive the car of Meher,” admits Hasut.
He adds: “I am landless and my father ‘disowned’ me by giving Rs.20 and 2 kg rice after my marriage. My dream is to build a house for me as the old one-room house is crumbling. I once asked Meher what would happen if there were any problem with the construction and I get jailed. He assured me that he would bail me out.”
Hasut now finds it difficult to free himself from the clutches of his handler.
Source : http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/struggling-to-make-ends-meet-they-execute-contracts-worth-crores/article8117796.ece