The Ministry of Rural Development seems undecided on whether to blame former Minister Nitin Gadkari or the media for some of the problems with the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
An internal note of the Ministry — prepared ahead of a Performance Review Committee meeting this month — blamed Gadkari for contributing to delays in the payment of wages under the scheme.
Soon after the ministry was reached for a comment, however, the text of the paper — put up on the Ministry website — was changed, shifting the blame on to “media reports”. However, copies of the original note have already been sent to the states.
The points for discussion in the note list 17 broad reasons for delays in MGNREGA wage payments. One of the factors identified is “psychological issues” — including “fear that the programme would be wound up/money won’t come due to the statements made by the then Minister for RD”, which contributed to delayed wage payments.
The note was subsequently changed to read “…programme would be wound up/money won’t come due to the various media reports”.
The ministry has said workshops at the state/regional level need to be conducted to address the issue.
Gadkari had proposed to restrict the rural job guarantee scheme to backward districts, and dilute the wage-material ratio in favour of the latter. Ministry officials said his statements created a perception that the government might stop the scheme. The reasons in the note have been identified on the basis of responses and feedback from MGNREGA functionaries on the ground.
MGNREGA introduced in 2006, promises 100 days of employment every year to each rural household, and mandates wage payments within 15 days. In its note, the ministry has said the percentage of delayed payments has gone up drastically from 42.4 per cent in 2012-13 to 70.84 per cent in 2014-15.
After taking over as Rural Development Minister from Gadkari in November last year, Chaudhary Birender Singh clarified that the scheme would continue to be implemented in all districts without dilution.