Here’s the cruel underbelly of modern India: Villagers in Rajasthan’s Tonk district are paid Re1 per day for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), and a state minister justifies it as consistent with the work done.
The political apathy and corruption that cause such incidents are well known. But at issue are MGNREGS’ structural weaknesses, which make rooting corruption out a tough task. Why was the work not supervised for quantity and quality? Perhaps because, as a recent report suggests, village leaders in the state discourage third-party supervision of MGNREGS.
Supervision is also required at higher levels— not even the smallest amount of work justifies a wage of Rs1 per day. The problem is little political will exists to undertake the high cost of monitoring corruption. The results are conflicting responsibilities and interests for the administration, and a cruel joke for the poor.