With the performance of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) taking a serious hit this fiscal, largely owing to implementation bottlenecks and funds crunch, the Rural Development Ministry has blamed the media for “constant negative reportage” that created a “wrong perception” about the flagship scheme.
According to minutes of an internal review meeting of the ministry held on January 13-14, then Rural Development Secretary and now Home Secretary L C Goyal stated that “despite several success stories of the programme, there seems to be constant negative reportage in the media about the programme.”
He added: “All states need to work on projecting the success so as to correct the wrong perception”.
The Indian Express had earlier reported that in the agenda for the same meeting, the ministry had sought to blame former Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari’s statements for creating a “fear that the scheme would be wound up/money won’t come”, and then, had changed the text to shift the blame to “media reports”.
The minutes of the meeting, however, go on to admit there are “increasing delays” in wage payments, asking states to analyse reasons for such delays and take measures to improve the system. States have also been asked to improve the transparency and accountability framework, including strengthening the social audit system.
The Indian Express has been reporting how the scheme’s performance this fiscal has been dismal so far. Less than 3 per cent households have been able to complete the promised 100 days of employment. Moreover, over 70 per cent of the wages have been delayed this year and each household on an average has been provided employment for just a little over one third of the mandated 100 days.
The meeting’s minutes state that the ministry has assured all states that the focus on backward blocks should not be construed as the programme being stopped in other areas. It has also clarified that the wage-material ratio will not be changed.