oppn parties MNREGS: Money Down the Drain?

News Snippets

  • S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, says Pakistan should release and repatriate Kulbhushan Jadhav immediately
  • Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala asks the Speaker to hold the trust vote latest by 1.30 pm today
  • The Government sends a list of 24 questions to mobile app company that runs video app TikTok seeking answers for anti-national and obscene content carried on the platform
  • Sarvana Bhawan founder P Rajagopal, serving a life term for murder, dies in a Chennai hospital
  • SC allows time till July 31 to the Ayodhya mediation panel
  • IT department attaches "benami" plot worth Rs 400cr in Noida. The plot allegedly belongs to BSP leader [email protected]@@s brother and his wife
  • Dawood [email protected]@@s nephew, Md. Rizwan Iqbal, was arrested from Mumbai airport as he was waiting to board a flight to Dubai
  • Trouble brews in Bihar JD(U)-BJP alliance as Bihar police asks special branch officers to keep tabs on RSS activities
  • Trust vote in Karnataka assembly today. With rebel MLAs deciding to stay away after the SC order, the Congress-JD(S) government is likely to fall as it does not have the numbers
  • Amit Shah says the government will identify and deport illegal immigrants from all parts of the country
  • Reports from Pakistan confirm that Hafiz Saeed has been arrested and sent to jail
  • After the SC order, Karnataka Speaker says he will go by the Constitution in deciding on the resignations of the 16 MLAs
  • Rebel MLAs say they will not attend the trust vote on Thursday
  • Supreme Court rules that rebel MLAs cannot be forced to attend the assembly and vote in the floor test
  • Both the Centre and the Assam government have sought re-verification of up to 20% of draft NRC data
International Court of Justice agrees with India, stays Kulbhushan Jadhav's execution. It asks Pakistan to allow consular access to the accused.
oppn parties
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.