WEDNESDAY, 06 FEBRUARY 2013 13:17 ARCHANA JYOTI | NEW DELHI
The UPA’s flagship rural job programme, MNREGA, is floundering. Despite huge social spending on the scheme, employment generation has declined substantially in the last three years: 54 days in 2009-10, 47 days in 2010-11, and 43 days in 2011-12. The trend suggests a further decline in 2013. Launched in 2006, the rural job scheme guarantees a minimum of 100 days of work in a year.
As per the “Report to the People” released by Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh last week, the day to person ratio per household till December 2012 in 632 districts is just 34. In other words, in the first three quarters of the fiscal year 2012-13, the national average was 34 working days per household.
During 2011-12, the Government spent `38,034 crore on the demand-driven scheme, of which 78 per cent was spent on wages. Overall, from 2006-07 to 2012-13 (up to December 2012) `1,29,000 crore was spent on wages.
The report shows that the average number of work days in economically poor States like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh is as low as 31. In these States, less than 10 per cent families got 100 days work in 2011-12.
In fact, the average annual jobs generated under MNREGA since its inception has never exceeded 54 days, though the scheme was launched with the aim to provide livelihood security in rural areas by guaranteeing at least 100 days employment in a financial year to every household.
Clearly, the much-ambitious programme, which got mired in corruption and irregularities, has failed to reach to the needy at the grassroots level.
As per various reports, local Governments have made wrong claims about the number of people who have received job cards. The additional fund is mostly embezzled by officials.
There are several cases of fake entries in the muster rolls, overwriting, false names and irregularities in job cards. Even the names of dead people feature in the muster rolls.
Concerned at the declining trend of employment generation, a Parliamentary panel led by senior Rajya Sabha member Sumitra Mahajan last year said: “The committee is constrained to believe that the basic methods of assessment of demand are flawed due to which the number of days of employment are receding. It appears that in the name of demand driven, no real efforts are made at local level to ensure that work is given to the people.”
The panel asked the Government to re-examine the entire implementation process, including creation of durable assets to take remedial measures. It also rejected the Government’s reply that recently a large number of additional activities/works have been included in Schedule-I of the Act to broaden scope of works under MGNREGA.
“Mere inclusion of the added categories of work will not help improve performance of MGNREGA unless it is augmented by strengthening capacity of Panchayats for planning,” said the panel.