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MGNREGA scheme needs a second thought
HARISH DIDO | 18 Jun 2014

With the involvement of two BDPOs of Muktsar district in Punjab in MGNREGA scam for bungling funds in purchase of stationery items worth Rs.13 lakhs, it has put a big question mark over the scheme which needs to be given a second thought.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) aims at enhancing the livelihood security to people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

According to a recent Indian Government committee constituted to estimate poverty, nearly 38% of India's population is poor. More than 75% of poor people reside in villages. Rural poverty is largely a result of low productivity and unemployment. In order to alleviate rural poverty by generating employment and creation of sustainable assets in Rural India, Government of India brought in the flagship programme called Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005. However, Social security programmes are not free from flaws. So is the case with MGNREGA.

The Act was notified in 200 districts in the first phase with effect from February 2, 2006 and then extended to additional 130 districts in the financial year 2007-2008. The remaining districts have been notified under the NREGA with effect from April 1, 2008.

Thus, MGNREGA covers, at present, the entire country with the exception of districts that have a hundred percent urban population. MGNREGA is perhaps the most ambitious anti-poverty scheme launched anywhere in the world. However, the scheme has shown several anomalies when it comes to implementation in the right manner.

The issues and challenges being faced by Government while implementing the world's largest employment generating programme and the issues among the people covered under the scheme are Poor Planning & Administrative Skill, Inadequate awareness, Lack of focus on objectives, No purposive spending, Lack of adequate man power, Being unorganized, Difficulty in funding the scheme e) Discrimination f) Corruption & Irregularities g) Maoist insurgency h) Lack of safety measures.

Although various schemes launched during the tenure of Congress for the welfare of people, have got tremendous recognition in papers but its benefits have not reached to the real beneficiaries. These have proved boon for then bureaucracy. Two schemes MGNREGA - Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act & MDM – Mid-day Meal have proved beneficial for many political leaders and officials.

Initially, there was hanky-panky at the time of enrollment for preparation of card and later on while distribution of work. In fact, the details of the scheme were not made available to the sarpanchs before it started, as a result they could not know as to when the amount has been released in their name and spent.

Because of illiterate and ignorant sarpanchs, the Panchayat Department exploited them to the maximum and were only concerned in making their wallet heavy. And certain panchayat members having knowledge on this account also became part of the conspiracy of Panchayat Department. What to say, in certain villages, the sarpanchs to create their vote bank, enrolled their influential persons and distributed them without getting any work done. At certain places, there was also demonstration by the labourers against the discrimination.

It would have been more appropriate if the government had created awareness among the people about MGNREGA before its introduction apart from monitoring from time to time by constituting the committees and making accountable those found negligence in performing the duties.

Frankly speaking, in case the grants released are not properly utilized, its benefit is not likely to reach to the real beneficiaries and it will be mere a wastage of money. The government must give a second thought to the scheme to remove the loop holes, so that the benefits are passed on to the real beneficiaries, for actual development of rural areas.

Government and NGOs must study the impact of MGNREGA in rural areas so as to ensure that this massive anti-poverty scheme is not getting diluted from its actual path and to see that the disparity in terms of socio-economic condition among people in rural and urban areas is reduced to considerable extend.