oppn parties MNREGS: Money Down the Drain?

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  • As Rajeev Kumar fails to appear before the CBI despite several notices, the agency forms a special team to locate and apprehend him
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  • Barasat Sessions court near Kolkata rejects Rajeev Kumar anticipatory bail application citing lack of jurisdiction as the reason
  • PM Modi celebrates his birthday with Narmada aarti and later has lunch with his mother.
  • All 6 Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs merge with the Congress in Rajasthan
  • Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to meet PM Modi on Wednesday, state issues on the agenda
  • Pakistan to open Kartarpur corridor on Nov 9
  • Rajeev Kumar, ex-police commissioner of Kolkata and wanted for questioning in the Sarada scam does not appear before the CBI despite the state administration requesting him to do so
  • Supreme Court asks the Centre to restore normalcy in J&K but keeping national interest in mind
  • As Trump accepts the invitation to attend a programme in Houston with PM Modi, India rushes to settle trade issues with US
  • After drone attack on Aramco's Suadi Arabia facility, oil prices jump 19% in intra-day trading causing worries for India
  • Imran Khan raises nuclear war bogey again, says if Pakistan loses a conventional war, it might fight till the end with its nuclear arsenal
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MNREGS: Money Down the Drain?

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
The showpiece social welfare scheme in India, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS), is floundering. It is not a surprise to anyone. As with most government schemes the basic idea is to give money to the poor. But MNREGS started out as something different. It promised money to the poor in lieu of work. They were to be given work for specified number of days at a fixed daily wage. It was a scheme that put money in their pocket without taking away their self respect. In that sense it was an eminently sensible scheme. The government would in any case have to pay workers to get work done. Hence, why not put the rural folk, who had no work, to use by identifying the needy among them.

But giving money for getting work done is the easy part. With Jan Dhan accounts and Aadhaar in place, there is also lesser fear of leakages. But the tough part is to allot meaningful work to these people, properly supervise that work and get quality assets created in the time allotted. It is here where the MNREGS is totally ineffective. The Sumit Bose committee (it was set in 2016 up by the rural development ministry to look at “performance based payments for better outcomes in rural development programmes) has come down heavily on poor supervision and the shoddy quality of assets in projects under MNREGS.

The committee was particularly piqued at the way projects were being monitored. In a telling comment, it said “the field supervision of these works by the available engineering personnel is both fairly thin and irregular, resulting in delayed execution and substandard quality.” It also pointed out that not enough supervisory personnel were appointed as more than Rs 520cr of the admissible administrative expenditure of Rs 3411cr under the scheme remained unspent. The committee also rued the fact that there is an “embarrassing lack of data regarding Panchayats” and this makes monitoring of revenue and expenditure extremely difficult.

A total of Rs 2 lakh crore is being transferred to almost 2.5 lakh panchayats in India under the 14th Finance Commission. This works out to a handsome amount of Rs 16 lakh per year per panchayat. There have been reports that absolutely no work is being done in some places while the people are being paid. If people get paid for doing little or no work it makes for a lazy workforce. If we are unable to monitor how panchayats spend this money, who gets it, what work is being done and what assets are being created, why take the trouble of keeping so many records. We might just as well drop currency notes from a helicopter in areas where we want to give money to people.