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Deeply flawed scheme

Deeply flawed scheme

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 5, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/173972/Deeply-flawed-scheme.html

NREGS not what Congress claims it to be

That the National Commission on Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector has had to suggest measures to bring about more efficiency in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme at the fag end of the UPA Governement's tenure shows what a dismal failure the Congress's showpiece welfare scheme has been. While no one can fault the suggestions that have now been made, which include the setting up of mechanisms for redressing grievances at the national level along with district level resolution cells to arbitrate and monitor complaints, it is surprising that they weren't thought of before the scheme was implemented. The NREGS was a golden opportunity for the Government to revive village economy, build rural infrastructure and empower the rural poor. Had there been a serious effort to achieve these goals, the neglect of rural India that has persisted for decades could have been reversed. Instead, the Government has frittered away this opportunity. Some months ago the Comptroller and Auditor General had noted the dismal performance of the NREGS. It had found that barely 3.2 percent of the registered households had benefited from the flagship project. The CAG report stated that the scheme was riddled with so many flaws that they had rendered it practically useless. It pointed to corruption, inefficiency and misutilisation of funds in the implementation of the project works. It also found many instances of unreliable figures being reported and diversion of funds, which in turn have ensured that the money sanctioned for the scheme does not reach the intended beneficiaries. While funds have been utilised for works that don't exist, unemployment allowances have not been paid, works have been executed on the basis of inflated estimates and money has been paid to the wrong people.

The CAG has further noted deficient financial management and tracking system in the scheme, and inadequate planning of the works. Most shockingly, authenticated record books were found absent in many places and workers were being paid wages lower than the minimum wage rate. It is surprising that the Government allowed these corrupt practices to flourish. It would appear that neither was this scheme thought out seriously nor were diligent preparations made before its implementation, which is bewildering considering the importance that the Government attached to it. On hindsight, the initiative looks more like a political stunt on the part of the UPA Government to win votes and less like a genuine effort to address the grievances of the rural people. Hopefully, the next Government will ensure that NREGS is implemented in its true spirit.

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