New Delhi: The Union government plans to empower the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which currently oversees the work of state agencies and state-owned companies, to investigate complaints against its flagship rural jobs scheme.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) promises 100 days of annual work to one member of every rural household.
CVC currently has to route complaints about irregularities in the scheme’s execution to a state chief secretary or the rural development ministry, which oversees the scheme.
“CVC can’t ask for a report. Meetings have been held between CVC and the rural development ministry regarding a way that CVC oversight can be included in the guidelines for devolution of funds,” a person aware of the development said. “If a serious complaint is made then CVC would be authorized to look into the matter and inquire.”
“Some discussions are taking place. We are in the process of holding discussions,” said B.K. Sinha, secretary, rural development ministry. “I cannot say anything more as of now, till discussions are over.”
Launched in 2006, the employment scheme has provided jobs to more than 25 million households. But it has also faced charges of corruption, delayed wage payments and misuse of funds, among other complaints.
The rural development ministry had received 1,396 complaints about irregularities in the implementation of the scheme, according to figures until August.
It has appointed national monitors to look into these complaints, and asked state governments to appoint ombudsmen for redressing grievances, conducting audits, setting up district-level vigilance panels and introducing independent monitoring by eminent citizens.
To evaluate the scheme, the government has also set up the Central employment guarantee council as well as state employment guarantee councils. It now plans to institute gram nyayalayas, or rural courts, where MGNREGS beneficiaries can lodge their complaints.
The ministry recently came up with several proposals to improve the execution of the job scheme, such as running it alongside rural literacy programmes and rolling out a global positioning system-enabled plan of biometric attendance for workers within a year.
Experts said the plan to allow CVC to investigate MGNREGS-related complaints will, at best, have a limited impact.
“Sure this would help because CVC can investigate, prepare reports etc. However, the problem with CVC has been that it does not have any formal powers. It can merely investigate and find out things. We need someone who cannot just investigate but also file charges and proceed. At least for MGNREGS, the government should give CVC not just investigative but also prosecutory powers if we are to see any results,” said S.L. Rao, former director general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research.
The Centre has allocated Rs.1.32 trillion to the scheme since it was launched. Allocation in the current budget is Rs.40,100 crore.