New Delhi: Union minister of state for planning and parliamentary affairs V. Narayanasamy has admitted that the government has faltered in implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or NREGS.
The minister’s admission confirms what has long been criticism of the programme, a flagship for the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, government, though most party officials have steadfastly denied any major issues with NREGS.
To effectively implement NREGS and 11 other Centrally sponsored schemes, the minister has written to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to ask that all Plan panel advisers travel to various states, do a ground-level check and submit reports of implementation of these programmes.
In his letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Mint, Narayanasamy has said he has personally experienced that implementation of NREGS in some states is not in accordance with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or rules. “I also found misuse of funds, and that the targeted group is not getting the benefits,” Narayanasamy wrote.
He added that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants the Planning Commission to review implementation of the Centrally sponsored programme, apart from nodal ministries under which different schemes are run.
Accordingly, the commission has asked more than 20 advisers to complete field trips by 31 July and submit subject-wise reports.
Other schemes to be reviewed include the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a primary education programme; the Mid-day Meal Scheme, which aims to provide lunch to around 110 million schoolchildren; and the Integrated Child Development Scheme, or ICDS, a health and nutrition programme for children, besides four components of the UPA’s ambitious time-bound rural infrastructure programme, Bharat Nirman. These relate to basic amenities in rural areas such as housing, drinking water, roads and electrification.
“I have called a meeting of advisers and members and I feel it would be a good idea for senior officials to travel to various states and gather reports of such schemes now that we are in the second year of the 11th Plan, especially when focus is on inclusive growth,” said Ahluwalia.
He wouldn’t discuss the communication between Singh, Narayanasamy and the Planning Commission.
NREGS, which aims to provide at least 100 days of employment to at least one member of a household in rural areas, was extended to all 596 districts across India in the 2008 Budget, with an allocation of Rs16,000 crore.
The commission relies heavily on data and reports procured from state planning agencies as also relevant government departments for all Centrally sponsored schemes in making its reports.
Planning Commission officials have admitted there are inaccuracies in data provided in several such schemes, including NREGS and the ICDS.
NREGS has also been criticized by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the state auditing and accounting agency, for poor implementation.
G. Devarajan, general secretary of All India Forward Bloc, a constituent of the Left Front, which withdrew support to the UPA government on Tuesday, said the lack of transparency in the NREGA programme would be one of the main points on which the Left parties would protest when they take out rallies against the government on 14 July.
“People at the grassroots should be allowed to audit the programme and gram sabhas should be involved in these programmes,” he said.
According to Devarajan, the programme, as designed now, gives scope for massive corruption.
“The states where the programme has been implemented the worst would be Jharkhand and Bihar,” he said.
K.P. Narayana Kumar contributed to this story.