In a move that may be aimed at narrowing down the scope of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the Centre has informally asked states to focus its implementation in the 2,500 blocks designated as backward under the Intensive Participatory Planning Exercise.
The Rural Development ministry, in July this year, prescribed the exercise to ensure “greater focus” on backward blocks. Blocks were identified based on the percentage of population below the poverty line as per Planning Commission estimates of 2013.
However, according to the Rural ministry officials, states have been informally told to focus only on these blocks, thus conveying the government’s message on limiting the focus of the Act. “No official communication has been sent but yes, states have been informally told to keep their focus only on the backward blocks. A general sense in the government is that there is wasteful expenditure on the scheme with too much being put into implementation in blocks where it is not needed,” a ministry official said.
The sources said senior officials were in fact conducting state-wise visits to hand-hold states through the exercise and ensure the focus remains on the 2,500 blocks. They also said that since limiting the scope of the Act formally would require an amendment to the Act, the government was trying to ensure a more streamlined implementation this way.
Focus on these blocks will mean more effort will be put in to generate demand in these areas, and planning of works here would be a priority. “While the idea is to ensure funds are better utilised, it does amount to diluting the scheme to an extent. Once focus is shifted to limited blocks, it will mean barely any effort will be made in the others, unless people themselves demand work,” another official said.