Villages that earlier could not even boast of an Ambassador car and only a few rich farmers could afford to own a truck and become transporters, are today very different. Their skyline is dotted with expensive Tata Safaris and Toyota Fortuners. The MNREGA programmes which were meant to create assets and prosperity for the villages have done so but not in the manner the planners of this populist scheme foresaw. Today the programmes that were undertaken in the MNREGA, are proving to be a disaster that threatens to kill North India and its traditional rural economy. Unless this scheme is rolled back immediately it could destroy the backbone of India’s rural economy from Uttar Pradesh to Punjab.
According to Anup Singh, a prominent citizen of Mankapur near Gonda, the programme is a disaster and has brought unheard of prosperity to Gram Pradhans. Every Gram Paradhan involved in MNREGA now owns a Scorpio or a Safari and is a loaded rural gentleman. Having access to so much money has made the Gram Pradhans election a hotly contested one. “This programme is only fuelling corruption and nothing else,” Singh alleges.
He feels that the MNREGA should be recalled immediately as the government does not have the ability to manage the programme properly and any step the Government of India takes will only widen the disaster zone it has created.
Regardless of what Jairam Ramesh says and feels the MNREGA has turned into the biggest political sop created by any political party and biggest unemployment allowance in rural India, says Ajit Chak, the propaganda secretary of the Jan Sangharsh Morcha, a social pressure group of Uttar Pradesh.
Rural labour is migratory and as a rule does not want to work for more than 100 days in a year. Even if false muster rolls are created and the pradhans pocket 50 per cent of the money and only dole out 50 per cent for the farm labour it is sufficient, says Anup Singh a regular at the Save Lucknow Forum.
According to Singh, the impact of MNREGA can be felt and seen in other states too, as far as Punjab where labour from Uttar Pradesh no longer migrates for work. This is because they are now receiving money sitting at home and for doing nothing, it is a win-win situation for them.
Unfortunately this is a lose all situation for the country. The MNREGA will make it imperative for the farmer to switch over to mechanical help. Cheap machinery from China will flood the market. Tractors and harvesters will replace farm labour and small holdings will vanish. The Future of farming will go into the hands of FDI majors and food production will become their monopoly.
India’s biggest asset i.e. its cheap manpower will be the biggest sufferer if the process of implementing MNREGA programmes is not reversed, and Jairam Ramesh will go down in the annals of history as the person solely responsible for handing over the nation to foreign companies. It would be the return of the East India Company again, feels Ajit Chak.
The Government must realize its mistake and call off the bluff, says industrial consultant and Save Lucknow Forum member Gagan Sharga. Otherwise the bluff shall be on the nation. We laugh at Akhilesh Yadav’s unemployment dole but what about the unemployment dole introduced by the Congress Party on a scale beyond imagination.
The example of the village Angaluru in Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh will illustrate how good money was thrown away for bad results. Out of some 1,000 families, 800 families had registered themselves as BPL families, seeking job under the MNREGA programmes. So far, it was for 100 days at Rs.100 per day. Even at this, 80,000 man-days of useful work in a year was impossible in a village and that too, year after year.The result, wages of agricultural labour gone up by 2.5 times and agriculture started becoming increasingly unviable for them. Farmers felt that it was better to sell their land and put that money in a bank FD.
Then there were several cases of fake muster roll entries, overwriting, false names and irregularities in job cards. Even the names of dead people were found to be entered in the muster rolls at many places. Similarly, the names of people who have not registered in the MNREGA programmes often featured in the muster rolls, or the same name is repeated more than once. There are cases of payments being made without taking the worker's signature. In most of the States there is a huge gap between job card distribution and actual provision of employment.
In Madhya Pradesh more job cards were distributed than the number of actual households and only 35 per cent of the rural household actually received some employment under the scheme. Even the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has highlighted the lack of administrative capacity of the village panchayat members to run this scheme in the desired decentralized manner.
In agricultural sector it was witnessed that MNREGA resulted in labour shortage which in turn pushed the wages upwards. All this resulted in higher inflation as prices of food articles rose and because of poor implementation agriculture and farming was severely affected.
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