Only a little over 50 per cent of the work initiated under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in the Pune division has seen the light of day. Records show that of the 69,955 projects that began in the division in 2008-09, only 34,768 have been completed, while the remaining projects have mostly been abandoned.
The non-completion of work has been a major drawback plaguing the previous government’s flagship programme. The matter was highlighted time and again by the auditor general (AG), as well as experts, who pointed out how the delay was defeating the purpose of the scheme, i.e. building rural infrastructure.
In its latest inspection report, the AG raked up the issue of incomplete work under MGNREGS in the Pune division and passed strictures against it. The number of incomplete projects had peaked to 16,693 during 2011-12 alone, said the report.
Senior officials of the divisional commissioner’s office responsible for the implementation of the scheme pointed to a host of reasons for the unfinished work. Hasty planning, non-cooperation by line agencies and labourers leaving work midway were cited as some of the reasons. Of the five districts under the jurisdiction of the Pune division, Satara has the worst record with only 39 per cent of the work being completed. Sangli and Pune have the best record with 65 per cent of the work done. In Kolhapur, nearly 63 per cent of the projects have been completed, Solapur has 49 per cent of the work done.
“Proper planning is an important feature for the implementation of the projects, but most of the time the line departments come up with work during the agricultural cycle, when there is a shortage of labourers. Despite the projects beginning on time, a delay is caused as labourers go back to the fields owing to better pay,” pointed out a senior official. He also said the office of the divisional commissioner had undertaken special drives to complete the projects left midway.
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Seema Kakade, chief functionary of the MGNREGS cell of Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHDA), said the process of planning was not undertaken at the gram panchayat level, following which there was often a mismatch between the requirement on ground and the work charted out by the district authorities. “Projects get under way when there is pressure from higher authorities to utilise budgets for the financial year. Invariably, this means work is undertaken by May-end or June, and the start of the agricultural cycle soon after leaves the projects incomplete,” said Kakade. She also pointed out that the estimates prepared for sanctioning budgets were not done based on site survey and thus the wages fixed were often low.
“The Act had envisioned construction of permanent rural infrastructure, but that seems a distant reality at the ground level,” said Kakade.