New Delhi: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s flagship welfare programme to provide work to poor villagers has done well to provide job cards and ensure timely payments, a survey by independent monitors has found.
The residents of nearly two-thirds of villages surveyed said efforts to build awareness about the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) have been good, but about 30% rated them as poor.
NREGA promises 100 days of employment every year to the rural poor. Under the Act, the scheme has to provide work to job seekers within 15 days of their application and wages have to be paid within 15 days after the work is completed.
The survey found that job cards, issued to households under the Act, are authenticated and updated in 62% of the villages, and wages were paid on time in every three of four sample villages. It also pointed out that job cards were issued to households in more than 90% of the villages and to individuals in the rest.
Job satisfaction: Villagers in Rajasthan build a channel and a wall for water harvesting. Workers in only 10.15% of the surveyed villages were found to be paid less than the government-stipulated minimum wage. Madhu Kapparath/Mint
The survey was carried out by so-called national-level monitors in 1,013 villages across 227 districts in February-March, and in 2,387 villages across 249 districts in June-July.
The rural development ministry, which oversees the scheme, appointed these monitors to independently evaluate the working of the programme. The findings of the survey were released last week.
A ministry official said that most of the findings were similar across states. “There are some common problems like delays in payment of wages, absence of names from muster rolls, lack of awareness about the scheme and financial irregularities,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
The monitors reported that payments were never delayed in 42.78% of the surveyed villages, sometimes delayed in 45.52% of the villages and always delayed in 3.39% villages.
Workers in only 10.15% villages were found to be paid less than the government-stipulated minimum wage.
However, the survey also found out that social auditing of the programme’s implementation was happening in only half the villages, affecting the scheme’s transparency and accountability.
The ministry official said that the sample villages were selected in a way that the results were not lopsided. This was confirmed by an expert.
“Different states perform differently. For instance, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh are doing very well while some others like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are not. Since this study gives a national picture, all that has to be taken into account,” said S.L. Rao, former director general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research.