The Hindu, March 16, 2012

MGNREGS figures register a decline in desert State; Haryana forges ahead in the race

Is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the much talked about flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance government, losing steam in Rajasthan? Doubts over the credibility of the scheme have sprung up in the State that ironically pioneered the right to employment movement in the country.

Today Rajasthan lags behind its neighbour Haryana in terms of the man-days provided and the money spent. The performance of States like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh is ahead of Rajasthan’s on various fronts.

“I hope this does not bring a bad name to the scheme as such. It is a noble initiative,” says the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council member and Rajasthan Planning Board Deputy Chairman V. S. Vyas. He was analysing the outcome of a study on the scheme conducted by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS). Prof. Vyas sought urgent corrective measures for its better implementation in Rajasthan.

Details of the study, carried out in all 33 district of Rajasthan from April 2010 to March 2012 using the community score card, were presented at a workshop here.

“We have not come across a single person who received the full payment of Rs.119 for a day’s work,” revealed Amar Deep Singh and Om Prakash Arya making presentations. The average wage in the desert State stood at Rs.75 during 2010-11.

The State could use only 56 per cent of the total budget for the year 2010-11, indicating that about half the money remained unspent. In 2009-10, the State had utilised 69 per cent of the funds. In comparison, the spending went up in Haryana from 74 per cent in 2009-10 to 93 per cent in 2010-11. Bihar, too, registered a marked climb in fund utilisation from 66 per cent in 2009-10 to 71 per cent in 2010-11.

The number of families given a job in Rajasthan came down to 58.24 lakh in 2010-11 from 63.69 lakh in 2008-09. Rajasthan’s total expenditure in MGNREGS slipped drastically — from Rs.6,175.55 crore in 2008-09 to Rs.3,300.33 crore in 2010-11.

Rajasthan could provide only 52 person-days per family a year in comparison to 76 person-days in 2008-09 and 69 days in 2009-10. Ironically, the number is still the second highest among the States after Tamil Nadu.

“In Punjab it was 27 days in 2010-11, while in Bihar and Kerala it remained 34 days and 41 days respectively,” said CUTS International director George Cheriyan.

The average wage paid in Uttar Pradesh under the scheme was Rs.100, almost close to the stipulated minimum wage of Rs.105 in the case of the unskilled agricultural worker. “In Bihar, it was still better. Against a fixed minimum wage of Rs.120, the State paid an average of Rs.123 to MGNREGS workers in 2010-11,” Mr. Cheriyan observed.

The study indicated that the labour went elsewhere and ignored MGNREGS jobs.

“The labour goes to the mines for work for a lesser amount. This is due to the delay in the payment of wages under the scheme,” noted Mr. Arya.

It was also observed that the form (Form No.6) meant for making a formal application for the job was not easily available. “The measurement of work accomplished remains tricky as ever. Then there are complaints about the haughtiness of mates and near total absence of facilities like drinking water, shelter and crèches at the work site,” he pointed out.

Former Rajasthan Chief Secretary M. L .Mehta termed the findings “very disturbing”.

“Of the 95 lakh families registered for jobs, only 1.50 per cent got jobs for all 100 days. Who is responsible for this?” he asked. There was no instance of payment of compensation to applicants denied jobs, he noted.

“Perhaps there is a serious need to review the working of the MGNREGS after five years of its existence,” said Institute of Development Studies director Surjeet Singh added.

“In Rajasthan, such activities used to work well with drought relief programmes. Better involvement of people in selection of job projects and establishing the ownership of the work could bring in the missing enthusiasm,” he observed.

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