October 17, 2014 2:38:28 am
In A damning criticism of the UPA government’s flagship rural job guarantee scheme, the Rural Development Ministry has said the scheme was reduced to “yet another government programme exploited for pure partisan purpose” and through which “participating agencies and individuals” seek “personal benefit”.
An internal note prepared by the office of the Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari has claimed MGNREGA has “earned quite a bad name” due to a variety of reasons, including the failure to generate high-quality assets to create sustainable long-term livelihoods, creation of assets that are “temporary” and “non measurable” as well as a “non-transparent functional structure”.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), introduced in 2006, promises a 100 days of employment every year to each rural household.
The note comes at a time when the minister’s proposal to alter the labour-material ratio from 60:40 to 51:49 and to largely restrict the scheme’s implementation to 2500 backward blocks has come under criticism from various quarters, including leading activists and economists.
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Lashing out at a “network of vested interest”, the note “on MGNREGA with suggested reforms to enhance productive asset creation, accountability, and reduced corruption”) claims the scheme continues to be presented as being successful because these interests are “milking it to their advantage”.
In spite of clear evidence of rampant corruption at various places, the scheme continues to be presented as a successful scheme. This, perhaps, is due to a solid network of vested interests involving political party functionaries, government officials, NGOs, research institutes and experts desirous of milking the scheme to their advantage” it states.
The note quotes various critical studies, as well as a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, to claim the scheme was “exploited for pure partisan purposes”. “These reports are a testimony to the fact that the scheme was allowed to be exploited for pure partisan purposes in states like Andhra Pradesh. The tendency of acquiring easy money and using government funds for political promotion could be curbed only when a spirited team of genuine and unbiased individuals is asked to look into the question of reforming MGNREGA,” it claims.
The minister’s office said the scheme needs to be converted into a “popular movement aimed at zero-unemployment in village”, with slogans like Hamara Gaon-Hamara Rojgar -Hamara Vikas! to “inspire villager” to ensure that the scheme “helps them in evolving a collective vision for their village… .”
“Unless this spirit is successfully inculcated, the scheme will continue to be yet another government programme where money is doled out… Unless an extremely likely network of interests is not broken, real picture will not emerge,” the note reads.
The note also points out “key flaws” in the scheme, suggesting a series of reforms. It claims the lack of asset creation is due to “unnecessary centralisatio” and an inadequate labour-material ratio.
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